Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on November 26th, 2023, 27 military personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel, now find themselves charged with 88 counts, encompassing mutiny and various related offences.
Yesterday, on January 8th, 2024, all 27 soldiers appeared before a Court Martial at the Siaka Stevens Street Court. Notably, seven of them were attired in military regalia, while the remainder were in civilian clothing.
Presiding over the Court Martial is Judge Advocate Magistrate Mark Ngegba, supported by seven Board Members, with Colonel Laurence Jabbati serving as the Board President.
The pre-trial proceedings commenced precisely at 10:10 am when the court was declared open. The accused persons were grouped in the dock, surrounded by lawyers, journalists, and members of the public in attendance.
Despite not formally presenting the charges due to the health condition of one of the accused, who suffered an attack in court and was subsequently taken away by prison officers, all the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges through their respective lawyers, responding to the inquiries made by the Judge Advocate.
Several issues were raised by the defence lawyers, with a notable concern expressed by Lawyer Julian Cole, representing the 17th accused. He questioned the oath-taking process of the Board Members, asserting that the accused were not consulted regarding their satisfaction with the appointed members.
Another issue revolved around the plea for Sergeant Abu Bakarr Koroma, whose lawyer cited his epilepsy condition, arguing that he was not in the right frame of mind to enter a plea. The Judge Advocate addressed these issues in court, administering the oath to the Board Members and considering the plea of the accused with epilepsy through his counsel.
On the prosecution’s side, they currently have 52 witnesses, and Lawyer JAK Sesay mentioned they might file for additional witnesses. Judge Advocate Mark Ngegba granted three weeks for the prosecution to conclude their case, with an additional week if needed, and the same timeline for the defence.
The 88 counts laid against the accused include charges related to mutiny to overthrow the government, failure to suppress mutiny, aiding the enemy, communicating with the enemy, stealing public or service property, fraudulent misapplication of public or service property, and murder.
Among the accused are Staff Sergeant Alhaji Koroma, Sergeant Ibrahim Bundu-Kamara, Sergeant Albert Bassie Conteh, Staff Sergeant Abu Dauda, and Corporal Edward Koroma.
The prosecution team is led by the Director of Public Prosecution, Osman Kanu, along with A.G.M Bockarie, A.V Koroma, and J.A.K Sesay, among others. The 17th accused is represented by Lawyers Melron Nicol-Wilson and Julian Cole, and Ady Macauley, M. Baraytay, among others, represent the 9th and 21st accused, respectively. Lawyer Ibrahim A. Kamara represents the 15th accused, while the remaining accused are represented by Lawyer I. Bangura from the Legal Aid Board.
The matter has been adjourned to Wednesday, January 10th, 2024. MJB/9/1/2024