Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sierra Leone mutiny court-martial continues

Judge Advocate Otto During
The mutiny case in Freetown continues, as reported here. At its latest session, Judge Advocate Otto During permitted the prosecution to amend one of the charges (over objection by defense counsel) following the close of the evidence, and to submit a 25-page closing argument that was apparently not read aloud -- thus thwarting media coverage of precisely what the government was contending. The case was then adjourned until June 19, at which time the defense will make its closing submission. Here is Mariam Sulaiman-Bah's detailed report from the courtroom:
Lead prosecutor, Major Vincent Sowa has finally submitted his closing address on May 27 before judge Advocate Otto During, involving 13 military personnel for allegedly committing mutiny against the state in August 2013. 
Prosecutor Major Sowa said, “the prosecution hereby submits its closing address pursuant to rule 62(1) of the court martial rule[s] 2003, the said rule obliged us the prosecution to submit the closing address after we have adduced evidence for our case”. 
The prosecution made a presentation of a 25-page document to the court for all the 13 accused and for all counts charges but however the prosecution made an application to the Court for an amendment of count one which states ‘conspiracy to commit mutiny’ but should rather state ‘committing a civil offence’ contrary to section 7(2) of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Act (RSLAF) 1961 as amended. 
Major Sowa appealed that the particulars of offence remains the same and argued that he made the application because under the first schedule of the Act (RSLAF 1961); conspiracy is not listed as a military offence. 
The only defence lawyer in court, Thomas Beah, vehemently argued that the defence objected to the application made by the prosecution for the amendment of count one, noting that the amendment is a calculated ploy by the prosecution to waste the precious time of the honourable court. 
Thomas further argued that prosecution has been given four weeks to make their closing address. 
“It will be unfair to the accused that after the prosecution and defence had closed their case within one year, for the prosecution to apply for an amendment which will lead to fresh evidence”. He therefore appealed to the court to urge the prosecution to submit their closing address and forget about amending the indictment. 
But things didn’t go as the defence Lawyer Thomas Beah expected, as Judge Advocate Otto During upheld the application made by prosecution noting that “I will allow the indictment to be amended and it cannot do any unfair and injustice to the accused persons”. 
Smelling defeat in his bid to counteract the application made by prosecution, Thomas Beah made another application stating that before the amendment, a Note of Order should be endorsed by the judge but his application was again overruled by the Judge, stating that for the endorsement of a note of order for the amendment will be a waste of time and he stressed that time is of the essence. 
It’s been a year and a month now since the commencement of the trial in May 6, 2014, while the accused are apprehensive about their fate, the court Martial was adjourned to June 19, 2015 to give ample time to the defence lawyers to prepare their closing address.
"Time is of the essence"? Mutiny is not listed as a military offense? And where were the other defense counsel? Oy.

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