From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
Fifteen Lawyers Storm Courts to Prosecute Gbakima in Sierra Leone
By Arnold Akibo-Betts, Desmond Kamara-Taylor, Bintu Sesay, Abdul Karim Kabia & Aruna Turay
Feb 4, 2009, 17:26

There was mild sensation in the Law Courts yesterday February 3rd 2009 as no less than fifteen (15) Sierra Leonean lawyers expressed their willingness to associate themselves with the Police’s prosecution of one Alfred T. Gbakima and six of his hired men; all accused of having threatened to kill Sylvia Blyden, a popular Sierra Leonean female newspaper publisher and threatening her with death.

As the matter was being prosecuted by the State, it was Police Sergeant Mohamed Sandah who was supposed to lead the prosecution of behalf of the State but as lawyer after lawyer rose up in Magistrate Court No. 1 to announce their association with the Police Prosecution, there was loud murmuring in the court room as observers opined it had been a long time since so many lawyers associated with the Police to prosecute a single matter. Even after the sitting Magistrate had penned down the names of the initial set of ten (10) lawyers, five more lawyers entered the Court room with the expressed intention to have their names entered into the records as haven associated with the prosecution.

The numerical strength of the prosecution is a reflection of the intense public interest the matter has generated. No less persons than the Vice President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Lawyer Mustapha S. Turay, the Secretary General of the Bar, Lawyer Easmon Ngakui and a whole host of other legal minds announced to the sitting Magistrate, Principal Magistrate Stephen Conteh, that they wished to be placed on record as associating with the Sierra Leone Police to ensure that Alfred T. Gbakima and the six others faced the full force of the Law.

Gbakima and the other suspects were arrested in connection with the alleged uttering of threatening remarks against the country’s only female Publisher and Newspaper owner Dr. Sylvia O Blyden, along Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown on January 27th 2009. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges but the vehement objection by the prosecuting lawyers to the suspects being granted bail, was upheld by the Presiding Magistrate who remanded all the seven suspects into the Pademba Road Prisons in Freetown.

Lornard Taylor Esq., the sole Defending Lawyer who bravely faced up to the battery of lawyers prosecuting his clients, appealed for the court to grant his clients bail. Lawyer Taylor based his appeal on the account that the accused persons have just been released on bail on another criminal matter in another court and they had never missed any appearance in that matter. He also said that Gbakima willingly turned himself over to the police when he heard of a warrant out for his arrest.

In objection, the large team of Prosecuting Lawyers vehemently told the Magistrate that the suspects were prone to violence and disrespectful of the fact that they were under the purview of the Judiciary in another criminal matter as within hours of them being released from remand, they went about getting themselves involved in activities that have led to fresh criminal charges being preferred against them. In the case of Gbakima, the lawyers said he was the nexus between the two criminal matters both of which involved violence and threats of violence. The lawyers pointed out that the alarming spate of violence in the country was a serious cause for concern and that it was incumbent on the Judiciary to send out a very strong message to the wider society that violence in any shape or form would no longer be tolerated leniently.

The prosecuting team appealed that the accused persons’ bail be seized pointing out that seven strong able bodied men stand accused of threatening to kill an innocent woman who was merely serving her country with the truth.

After listening to the heated and passionate arguments, the learned Presiding Magistrate, Stephen Conteh refused the accused persons bail and sent them all on remand whilst adjourning the matter to tomorrow Thursday 5th February 2009.

It will be recalled that the matter now has an international dimension with journalists from around the world calling upon the Sierra Leone Police and the Sierra Leone Judiciary to speedily look into the matter. This has come in the form of numerous international press publications calling for the reported attack on a female journalist to be treated with the utmost seriousness by the relevant Sierra Leonean authorities. The President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, recently made it very clear that he would leave no stone unturned to curb the growing menace of indiscipline, violence and lawlessness by persons who went around with the belief that they were above the laws of the land.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.