Treason Trial: Defense Calls For A Voirdire Trial For the 6th Accused

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By Feima Sesay

Lawyer A.A Bangura, the defense Counsel now representing the 6th accused Hassan Leigh has applied for a Voidire trial to be conducted in respect of the sixth accused noting that he is uneducated and was unrepresented at the time statement was obtained from him.

The term Voidire means trial within trial.
He made this application yesterday before Justice Komba Kamanda, presiding judge over the ongoing treason trial involving Amadu Koita Makolo, Bai Mahmoud Bangura and 10 others.

He said the accused persons whiles cross examining the fifth prosecution witness made it clear that portion of his statement where he made mention of Bai Mahmoud Bangura was not his.
He applied for a Voidire trail in the event that the accused denies portion of of his statement.

Lawyer AA Bangura said as members of the Bar, they owe a duty to the law to ensure a fair trial .
He made reference to the case of Mannah Lahai, Mohamed Kamara and Edward Lamboi dated 12th March 2020.

His application was made pursuant to section 23 of the constitution Act No.6 1991.

State Counsel lawyer AGM Bockarie in reply said the application made by the defense was a Novelty and that it came as an after thought.

He said the accused during Cross examination of the witness by the accused, he indeed raised concern that portion of the statement was not his, but said the statement was shown to him before it was tendered.

Lawyer Bockarie said the application made by the defense Counsel for a Voirdire trial should be discountenanced, adding that the witness in his testimony said the accused made statement in krio which he understood.

He said an application for a Voirdire at the close of tendering a statement is a Novelty and not supported by law.

Justice Komba Kamanda having listened to the application made by defense counsel for a Voidire trail and the response thereto by the prosecutor ruled that “I have examined the proceeding as regards to the statement of the sixth accused, he was shown the statement and the content were read to him and an extensive opportunity was given to him to cross examin the witness based on the statement he tendered and he never denied the entirety of his statements,” the learned Justice noted.

He said the accused stated that he could not authenticate portion of his statement which he said was explained to him and was informed about a Voidire trial if he said his statement was not his.

But said the accused stated thereafter that the statement was his.

”This court now cannot entertain such application simply because the statement tendered is not favourably to the accused after cross examination,” Justice Kamanda explained.

The instant application he said in his view was a Novelty and said have perused the case that the defense referred to and the scenario he said was quite distinct from the instant case, adding that there was evidence that an opportunity was given to the accused at the police station to secure a lawyer.

Justice Komba Kamanda said a Voidire can only be conducted where the accused lacks knowledge of his right to secure the services of a lawyer or where he did not understand what was recorded.

He said all of the aforementioned were absent on his case and therefore a Voirdire he said could not be conducted where a statement has been tendered and cross examination was done with a view to fine tune the statement.

The instant application according to the judge was an afore thought and a novelty and it was therefore dismissed.

The sixth prosecution witness Detective Inspector Mohamed Awaru Yahayah Kanneh led in evidence by State Counsel lawyer AGM Bockarie said he is attached to the Criminal Investigation Department HQ Pademba road Freetown as an Investigator.

He said in the 6th December 2023, whiles on duty he recalled involving in an investigation regarding the fifth accused Alimatu Hassan Bangura.

Inspector Kanneh said he has known the fifth accused before the 6th December 2023 as a colleague.

On the 6th December 2023, he said himself and inspector Hawanatu Mansaray were assigned to investigate the accused on various offences of conspiracy to commit a crime to wit mutiny, creating insecurity by attacking the Wilberforce Military barracks at Cockrill, Joint Logistics Unit Murray Town, unlawful breakage of prison, unlawful released of Inmates and other related offences.

The accused, he said was cautioned and questioned by himself and recorded by inspector Hawanatu Mansaray and it was put to her that she has right to legal representation.

The said statement of the 6th accused was tendered and marked as exhibit O 1 to 19 and later read in court respectively.

The witness said on the 10th December 2023, the police constable 14143 Momoh Sahr and himself were assigned to further interview the fifth accused.

The witness said on the 11th December 2023, they recommenced further interview with the accused.

Further interview statements that were obtained from the sixth accused Alimatu Hassan Bangura were produced and tendered in court marked as exhibit P 1 to 10.

The witness said the phone of the fifth accused is with the cyber police as the conversation she allegedly having with one Marion were extracted from her phone bearing the number +447565261111.

Whiles the extracted conversation of the accused was about to be tendered, defense Counsel for the fifth accused N J Kamara objected to the tendering of the document on the basis that the source of the document which is the phone was not before the court. The essence of the phone being before the court, he said was for them to transcribe whether what is in the documents is the same as that in the phone, noting that without the phone the documents can be any other.

Prosecution said the documents is not a transcribed documents as alleged by the defense but an extract from the accused phone which is the primary source of that extracted document for which the accused confirmed in her statement that was read in court as her phone and every conversation they are about to tender form part of exhibits P1 to 41.

The phone which is the primary source of the extracted, according to him, is with the cyber and they cannot serve them with the phone and they are not saying the phone is not with the police.

He said has the accused not being confronted with the conversation they would have done otherwise.
Justice Kamanda having listened to them ruled that it is prudent that the source which is the phone be tendered first before the extracted message and in the circumstance upheld the objection made by the defense Counsel in respect to the tendering of the extracted conversation from the accused persons phone.

The extracted conversation from the accused phone was produced for identification Mark exhibit Y 1 to 10.
The witness was asked if shown the phone would be able to identify it and he replied in the afirmative.

During Cross examination by lawyer M J Kamara on behalf of the fifth accused asked the witness whether he did investigate the existence of Marion, the witness in reply said he did not because the investigation was a joint one.

The witness said one of the number on the accused’s phone was a foreign number from UK.
Lawyer Kamara confronted the witness whether he confirmed with the UK to know under which name the number was registered, the witness said the phone was sent to the cyber unit for them to analyse under which name it was registered as they are the expert.

According to the witness, the report states that the number was registered under Koita’s name.
Lawyer Kamara, put it to the witness that the accused in her statement said her phone does not have a password, and the witness said that was what she told him.

The witness also confirmed that the accused phone has no password, and that she received the phone on that day and could not tell whether it went through multiple hands.

He also said he received the phone from the arresting officer who happens to be PW1.
When asked whether the accused told him that her phone was hacked, the witness said, that was what she told him and that was why he sent the the phone to the cyber unit for examination.

When he was asked as to whether the accused was corperative with the police when they went to her house, he said the accused did not corporate with the police because her door was forcefully opened.

Lawyer Sigismond A Conteh counsel for the first accused Amadu Koita Makolo asked the witness that during the statement of the fifth accused, she informed him that the UK number + 447565261111 was from one Marion and he replied in the afirmative.
He put it to the witness that since it was a joint investigation, he was previledged to read the statement of the first accused, the witness said no and was not part of the investigation team.

The witness said the accused told him during the investigation that the person she was chatting with the UK number did not identify herself as Koita.

At this juncture, the matter was adjourned to the 21 February 2024 while the accused persons were remanded in prison.

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