- The trial of a Gambian journalist, Lamin Fatty, a reporter of the sealed private bi-weekly, 'The Independent' is to start fresh, despite being at an advanced stage, the court announces today. Mr Fatty, who was illegally detained for 63 days, has been standing trial for publishing false news, contrary to the laws of The Gambia.
Mr Fatty is charged under section 181 of the Criminal Code, which in its amended form makes the publication of "false information" a criminal and punishable offence. He faces a minimum of six months in jail without the option of a fine if convicted.
His case has been handled by the former Principal Magistrate, Kebba Sanyang, who has been elevated to the rank of Attorney General and Minister of Justice on 13 November.
The case took a different dimension today, after a court clerk announced that the case would start fresh because a new magistrate is waiting to handle it. It is expected to start on 4 December when a new magistrate is going to be appointed to preside over the case.
Mr Fatty's counsel, Lamin Camara expressed worry over this latest decision. He has always argued that the case had been dragging for too long. And in the last sittings, he reminded Magistrate Sanyang to honour his promise and acquit his client but he overruled the application on the grounds that the prosecution still needed to be given time to prove its case.
The case by now has been adjourned five times. Sometimes, the magistrate is accused of adjourning the trial to attend private social events of friends.
Since the case started in June this year, only two prosecution witnesses have so far testified. The case was last adjourned on 7 November mainly due to the absence of the police prosecutor, Momodou Mballow.
The Gambia government had clamped down on the staff of 'The Independent' - Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, editor and manager of the paper - after it had purportedly aborted a coup in March. The newspaper ran a story about the arrest of coup suspects, including the former Minister of Interior, Samba Bah, which angered the government.
Apart from arresting the executives, the police went further to seal the newspaper's premises. It remains closed since then.
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