The High Court in Banjul on Wednesday sentenced the Gambia’s former spy chief, who led the defunct National Intelligence Agency NIA, which the new government disbanded.
Director Yankuba Badjie and co were charged with murder over the killing of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, who was an opposition activist and the former United Democratic Party youth wing leader.
The accused persons were found guilty on 25 counts levied by state prosecutors against them, ranging from conspiracy to commit murder, felony, grievous harm, concealment, forgery, and disobedience of statutory orders, amongst others.
What was a six-year marathon trial that ended with High Court Judge Justice Kumba Sillah Camara passing judgment on Wednesday, sentencing Six former NIA intelligence operatives to death?
On April 14, 2015, the victim, Solo Sandeng was arrested alongside six UDP party members by the Police Intervention Unit following a peaceful demonstration over electoral reforms at Westfield.
In the ensuing hours, the UDP figures were severely tortured at the NIA intelligence headquarters alongside the late Mr. Sandeng who consequently succumbed to what prosecutors described as severe and inhumane treatment in the hands of State operatives and members of a notorious hit squad called Junglers.
Delivering a longwinding ruling that went into the evening, High court Judge Justice Kumba Sillah Camara disclosed that the court found the accused persons namely, former NIA Director General Yankuba Badjie, Sheik Omar Jeng, Baboucarr Sallah, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang guilty for the murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng at the NIA premises in Banjul on April 15, 2015.
She further cited section 188 of the criminal code and other laws of the Gambia, saying prosecution has satisfied the ‘burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt’ through material and corroborative evidences presented to the court depicting how the accused conspired to beat and torture Ebrima Solo Sandeng to death.
Dilating on testimonies adduced before the Court, the High Court Judge said compelling evidences revealed that the 9th accused Lamin Lang Sanyang conspired with 1st and 3rd accused persons Yankuba Badjie and Sheikh Omar Jeng to secretly bury the late Solo in Tanji in the most gruesome manner aided by Baboucarr Sallah, Tamba Masireh and Lamin Darboe.
She further told a packed courtroom that the accused persons fabricated a death certificate indicating that Solo died due to ‘shock and respiratory failure.
According to the presiding Judge, Sillah Camara these critical sets of evidence set the basis that established the guilt of the accused persons in the concealment of murder.
She also revealed that evidence showed that Sheikh Omar Jeng willfully intended to deceive the court about having no knowledge about the beating and torture of Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie, Fatoumata Jawara, Fatou Camara, Kakou Bayo, Modou Ngum and Ebrima Jabang, saying the Junglers were responsible for the inhumane treatment metted on the victims.
Justice Sillah Camara adduced that Sheikh Omar Jeng and Yankuba Badjie were the main architects of excessive torture, which led to temporal and permanent damage of surviving victims.
The six former NIA intelligence operatives were equally sentenced to 5 to 10 years for various offenses set to run concurrently from the time spent in prison.
During the lengthy murder trial, which started in March 2017, the second accused, a former deputy Director General and operation chief of the NIA Leese Gomez died, while the fifth accused was withdrawn from the case.
The sixth accused Haruna Suso, who was found not guilty on all counts, was acquitted and discharged by the presiding Judge.
The judgment was witnessed by a cross-section of people, including the family of the Late Ebrima Solo Sandeng, which has finally found closure for the death of their relative after 7 long years.