By Sahr Eric George
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Dressed in a brown striped gara shirt, with brown trousers, Ex-President Koroma walked into the Court room briskly behind his lead lawyer Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara. Also immediately behind him were the Chairman and Deputy of the APC, Minkailu Mansaray and Osman Foday Yansaneh, along with the APC Secretary General Lawyer Lansana Dumbuya who incidentally was part of the legal team. The retired president looked very fresh, as if he had just finished taking his bath and walked with a sprightly gait. He was allowed to sit on a chair and not on the usual bench that those arraigned before the courts are constrained to sit on.
The former President acknowledged greetings chatting quite briefly with his lawyers but mostly just looking on as the lawyers conversed among themselves.
The young Magistrate Santigie Bangura walked into the room to start the proceedings.
The clerk then announced the case of the Inspector General of Police versus Ernest Bai Koroma. The name Ernest Bai Koroma was called out by the Clerk and he answered yes. He was then directed to go into the box where all accused persons are made to stand for their trials.
Lead Defence Lawyer Joseph F. Kamara stood up asked the magistrate to allow the former President to use the chair, but the former President waived him away indicating that he was fine to stand in the dock. With his hands clasped behind his back he listened to the proceedings.
The Attorney General Mohamed Lamin Tarawally rose up and announced his team of prosecutors which included the Solicitor General Robert Kowa, the Director of Public Prosecution and 3 others.
Joseph F. Kamara also announced the defence team which he was leading, along with eight others.
The clerk then proceeded to read out the four count charges. The first count was for Treason for preparing to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone by unlawful means.
The former President smiled ruefully when treason was mentioned. Then he pasted a bland look on his face.
The second count is for Misprison of Treason and the particulars were that he unlawfully concealed the commission of the offence knowing that Sorieba Mansaray, Ibrahim Thorlu Bangura alias Tiger and Yapo Sesay had prepared to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone.
The third count was for harbouring Ibrahim Bangura in his residence knowing that he had committed treason.
The fourth count was also harbouring of Yapo Sesay, knowing that he had committed treason.
The Attorney General then informed the court that they were ready to start but he asked for the court to be stood down briefly.
The Magistrate left the court room and the two groups of lawyers trooped out, leaving the former president still seated in the courtroom.
After the hearing resumed, Magistrate Santigie Bangura of the Pademba Road Magistrate Court No 2 said he will not be able to allow any witness to testify due to time constraints and asked that both the prosecution lawyers led by the Attorney General and the defence lawyers led by Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara to agree on a date for the next adjournment which will be appropriate for them.
However before the adjourned date was announced, Kamara objected that the prosecution has not served them any documentation about their witnesses or the evidence they have against the former president, emphasising that treason was a very serious allegation.
Kamara then tendered a High Court ruling to the court which had granted bail to former president Koroma.
Magistrate Bangura maintained that he had to obey the order from the higher court and allowed former president Koroma to go with his lawyers. The matter was then adjourned to January 19, 2024 where the prosecution intends to present two witnesses.
Reacting to the charges outside the Court Lawyer Joseph F. Kamara said “Today a very dark cloud hangs over the skies of our republic. It is a shame that we drag in a former president, democratically elected for two terms on trumped up charges. It is a disappointment and regrettable that we are here on this type of charges.”
Asked about the details of the bail he said “Well certainly he is going home on bail which are not much different from those that were in existence before today and he will be home and he will move with the permission of the Inspector General of Police.”
A letter purportedly written. By the Ecowas President stating that the Former President will be flown to Nigeria today and that all charges should be dropped against him in line with a meeting the Senegalese and Ghanaian President’s had with the former president, the lead defence lawyer said “Well we have no instructions with regard to that letter our attention has been drawn to it but we have no input to it and we are not sure whether it is authentic or not. I cannot comment beyond that.” SKS/4/1/2023