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Published On: Thu, Jun 6th, 2024

Ebrima Dibba Faces Charges for Seditious Intention

Mr. Ebrima Dibba, who is an Executive Member of the main Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), yesterday appeared before Principal Magistrate Muhammed Krubally at the Banjul Magistrate’s Court. 

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) charged him with Seditious Intention under section 51(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. They claim that in May 2024, Dibba recorded and shared a WhatsApp audio where he accused the President of being greedy, immature, rude, and foolish. 

His legal team thinks the charge is “incompetent.” 

His lawyers, led by Counsel Borry S. Touray, planned to challenge the charge before entering a plea. They argued that the charge is just a definition and not an actual offense. They want the court to strike it out. 

Counsel Touray contented that the offence under which the accused is charged under section 51 subsection 1 is only a definition of the section and with the permission of the court he will read sections 51 and 52.

He read 51 (1) “Seditious intention” is an intention (a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President, or the Government of The Gambia as by law established;

(b) to excite the inhabitants of The Gambia to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter in The Gambia as by law established;

(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in The Gambia;

(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of The Gambia; 

(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of The Gambia,

Section 52 reads: Offences: A person who 

(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any with any person to do any act with seditious intention;

(b) utters any seditious words;

(c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; imports any seditious publication, unless he or she has no reason to believe that it is seditious, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than fifty thousand dalasis and not more than two hundred and fifty thousand dalasis or imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to both the fine and imprisonment, and the seditious publication shall be forfeited to the State.

Counsel Borry submitted that it is clear from the provision it is only a definition section or provision and the actual provision where the offence is created and one can be charged with is Section 52. He added that it is clear that Section 52 is the correct provision criminalising sedition. 

Counsel Borry Touray finally submits that the charge before the court is incompetence and to be struck out. He said the section does not give the power to the court to impose any criminal sanction.

In his reaction Commission Sanneh said the submission of Counsel Borry is misleading and baseless, adding that the charge is proper.

He referred the court to section 51 which the accused is charged and further referred the court to section 52 which punishes.

He said this is why they charged him (the accused) with section 51 and its punishment sections, adding that section 52 subsection 1 b and c matches with section 51 subsection 1 (a). 

He further submitted that counsel Borry’s application be dismissed because is misconceived and he asked the accused to enter his plea. 

Reply on point of law, Counsel Borry said commission Sanneh’s submission that section 52 is the punishment section that’s why they submitted that section 51 which the accused is charged is misconceived, adding that charge before the court is incompetence and be struck out.

In his decision presiding Principal Magistrate Krubally said after hearing the preliminary objection raised by Counsel for the accused, reply by the prosecution and reply on points of law, he will adjourn the matter to tomorrow for the ruling.

Counsel Borry then sought bail informing the court that the accused was under police bail and since the offence is bailable he’s applying for court bail. He submit that the accused (Ebrima Dibba) is a family man with a married wife, children and an executive member of the United Democratic Party.

He further informed the court that the accused would avail himself before the court for the hearing of the matter, adding that the alleged act is a bailable one.

In reply, commission Sanneh said they aren’t objecting to the bail.

On his ruling, Magistrate Kurubally said the Court is conscious of the fact that the offence in which the accused is charged is a bailable one. 

Principal Magistrate said the court notes that the prosecution did not object to the grant of bail to the accused, adding that bail is at the discretion of the court to be so exercised judicially and judiciously, 

“I hereby exercise such discretion and admit the accused herein Ebrima Dibba bail in the sum of D100000 dalasis and the accused is ordered to provide a responsible Gambian surety who must be in the course of either business or employment and the surety shall provide to the court his or her correct contact number or numbers, valid address, provide his or her valid Original ID Card or passport and swear to an affidavit of means that he or she will ensure the appearances of the accused in subsequent court proceedings at particular dates and times when required and further swear that he or she will forfeit the bail bond to the state in the event fails to appear,” Magistrate Krubally ruled.

Counsel Borry further applied for the prosecution to provide the defence with a copy of the WhatsApp audio and its translations. He said they don’t want a trial by ambush.

Commission Sanneh in reply said as of now they have no audio, but the audio is published by the accused (Ebrima Dibba) and is on his phone to provide it to the defence.

Lawyer Borry objected that Commission Sanneh cannot give evidence from the bar saying the accused made the audio without using the word “allegedly”

In his ruling, Principal Magistrate Kurubally said having heard counsel Borry Touray’s application for the prosecution to furnish defence counsel WhatsApp audio mentioned in the charge sheet to avoid trial by ambush.

“I ordered the prosecution to supply the defence any relevant document including the audio to be relied upon,” Principal Magistrate Krubally ordered.

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