By Gambia Correspondent – The former chief of defense staff Lt General Lang Tombong Tamba and former chief of naval staff rear Admiral Sarjo Fofana were yesterday convicted for treason and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
The former senior security chiefs were found guilty on four counts of treasonable indictments in connection with the 21st March 2006 abortive coup, alleged to have been masterminded by the former chief of defence staff, Colonel Ndure Cham.
Lang Tombong Tamba, it would be recalled is currently serving a death sentence along with seven other men in connection with a 2009 coup plot.
The former security chiefs were sentenced on count one, which was conspiracy to commit treason, to 20 years imprisonment and on count two, which was treason, to another 20 years imprisonment.
Lang Tombong Tamba was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on count three, which was concealment of treason, and on count four, which was treason, to another 10 years imprisonment.
All the sentences are to run concurrently.
The Special Criminal Court Judge, Justice JE Ikpala, told the crowded courtroom that the prosecution had proven its case beyond all reasonable doubt, and that the accused persons were guilty of the offences they were charged with.
He further stated that after evaluating the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, he was of the conviction that the onus on the prosecution to prove their case had been established.
The high court judge, whose judgment lasted nearly an hour, told the court gallery full of relatives, well-wishers, security officers and media that: “the accused persons were arraigned and indicted on four counts of conspiracy to commit treason, treason, concealment of treason and treason, and both pleaded not guilty to charges.”
Still in his judgement, he told the court that the prosecution had called in five witnesses in support of their case, while the defence made a no–case-to answer submission after the closure of the prosecution’s case which was overruled by the court, adding that the accused persons failed to give evidence in their own defence.
Justice Ikpala gave a detailed summary of the case of the prosecution, and analysed it according to the dictates of the law, and said the accused persons failed to give a good defence.
The trial Judge also went further in his judgment to give a detailed summary of the addresses made by both the defence counsel S.M. Tambedou and L.K. Mboge at the final phase of the trial, and that of the prosecution led by Daniel O. Kulo, while analysing them in sequence.
The judge further stated that from count one to four, the prosecution had established the element of the case as adduced by the prosecution witnesses.
He also said that he believed the evidence of the prosecution that the accused persons had endeavored to stage a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of The Gambia, adding that if he was to award gallantry for the foiling of the 2006 coup, he would award Momodou Alieu Bah (PW1), whom he said exposed the 1st accused person.
“I hold that the accused persons are guilty as charged, and the prosecution had proved their case beyond reasonable doubt. I hereby sentence them to 20 years in prison on count one, 20 years in prison on count two, and count three and four, which implies to only the 1st accused (Tamba), to 10 years on count three and another 10 years on count four,” Justice Ikpala pronounced in giving his verdict.
In his plea of mitigation on behalf of his client, (General Tamba), Sheriff Marie Tambedou said his client obtained the highest ever rank in the history of the Gambia’s military, being first brigadier, Major and Lt. General, adding that Tamba had served the country for 23 good years.
“He had been decorated with MRG by the president. My Lord, ironically the coup attempt he was tried for, he was the first to be commended for foiling the 2006 coup. He is a young man of 45 years, married with two wives and six children,” counsel SM Tambadou added.
Counsel mitigated that the evidence adduced by the prosecution did not disclose any form of violence or that which might result to death, while urging the court to take that issue into consideration and impose a lesser sentence on his client.
For lawyer L.K Mboge, the attorney for Sarjo Fofana, he made similar comments for his client, begging the court not to impose a heavy sentence on Fofana, while urging the court to use its discretion in sentencing the 2nd accused person.
“I urged the court to consider the totality of the evidence before the court in convicting the 2nd accused person. He is a gentleman who could not bite and the evidence before the court was a true reflection of him and he had not failed in any step,” LK Mboge said of his client.
Mboge told the court that his client is a highly responsible gentleman with wives and children and above all a lot of family dependents on him, adding that with this, the court can consider and forgive which is divine so that he will not spend the rest of his life in Mile 2 prison.
Shortly after the verdict was pronounced by the trial judge, General Tamba could be heard on top of his voice saying: “My conscience is clear, and my loyalty to the President would never change.”
Lang who was angry about the verdict was also heard shouting, saying: “I have done much to foil the 2006 coup, and I am prepared to die today with my loyalty.”
“God have the bigger pen than the judge. How can I foil a coup and stand charged for that. One has to look into this country’s judicial system. I have done a lot to foil this 2006 coup and I am prepared to die today,” General Tamba angrily said, while being calmed by commander Fofana, who was heard telling him “Lang cool down”.
For Fofana, “what I expected was for justice to be done, but to my surprise, there was no justice in this case”.
According to our correspondent, relatives and well-wishers of the security chiefs were seen crying after the verdict was read, in and outside the court premises.
The convict’s legs were shackled and they were handcuffed amidst a heavy security presence in and out of the court premises.
Our correspondent said drama unfolded yesterday when plain clothes officers escorting Tamba and Fofana arrested a man said to be a son to Sajor Fofana outside the court premises.
The reason for his arrest could not be ascertained, at the time of going to press, but the man was seen by this reporter protesting against the verdict against his father’s 20 years jail term imposed by the judge.