The dictum” innocent until proven guilty” has been inverted to read “guilty till proven innocent” in the case of the Leone Stars team manager Mohamed Sesay whose name is linked with the drug saga.
The media has tried, prosecuted and sentenced him even when the police are yet to interrogate him. The trial by the media has completed the judicial process before it has begun. Some papers have gone on a limb to drag the name of Mohamed Sesay’s brother Hamza who they claim has fishing vessels at Cow yard. The stories range from the ridiculous to the utterly nonsensical. Apart from Mohamed`s arrest the whole family is being harassed in their homes and offices in a manner that broke all the rules. For example Hamza’s office was closed without a search warrant and keys taken away in the hope that search will be conducted at a future date.
The coverage of the Lungi saga with sometimes chaotic logic of cow yards becoming drug shipyards and an arrest extended to mean a guilty verdict has become the hallmark of press coverage. It seems as if the effect of the cocaine has taken a toll on our capacity to take a standard line of reporting that will not prejudice the trial. We are compromising people’s fundamental right to fair trial by replacing trial by the court with media verdicts.
An article by a Charles Macrae premised on rules of evidence alien to the Law sent the police chasing shipyards at cow yard only to discover that cow yard had cows not ships. They came rushing to Hamza’s office in search of God knows what. Perhaps the surest way to save on judicial cost is to just use the verdict of the press and sentence Mohamed. The press has completed the job of the judiciary and Mohamed is guilty, this form of trial by the media will not only save us money but will mar every effort to get to the truth.
We all have rights to fair trial. Neither the government nor the media should attempt to take those rights away. The media trial has come with a guilty verdict for a man not yet questioned by the police and still refused legal access. Can the media step aside and allow the judiciary to do their bit at least for the records? The offence of drug is a serious crime, it must not be left in the realm of hearsay reports .What happened at Lungi on the night in question, is too serious, it must be treated as such – smuggling, personal vendetta will generate more heat than light.
We all have vested interest in the case individually and collectively. Some may want to use it to embarrass the government and its Ministers; others will want to use the case to score political goals, and some for what they hope to gain in it. The nation on the other hand will be scarred forever. This is why we must allow the court to judge other than leaving it in the somewhat incapable hands of custodians of grudge who have proclaimed themselves judge and jury.
For the police to arrest and detain someone without obtaining a statement for a whole week is stretching the police power of arrest to the fringes of illegality. On the other hand for the media to sentence a man even before he is asked to state his name and religion is symptomatic of a greater malice plaguing the nation and the national psyche.
Drugs have the capacity to weaken state institutions and plunge post conflict societies to anarchy; this is why the issue must not be left in the hands of men who have exhibited ineptness in matters like this in the past. The same network of security agencies who presided over the previous cases are still in control of state apparatus and we naively think that justice will take its course. If the police are so sure of what they have, why not charge the issue to court? Why revert to a media led investigation? Why not disclose the names of the other arrested suspects? Why the excuse that calling the names of the foreign nationals concerned might prompt collaborators to run away? What about the possibility of getting more witnesses to come up by putting the profile of the arrested suspect in the media like they have done in the case of Mohamed? Is there a possibility that the police is singling out Mohamed as a conduit to archive some spurious goals? By the way where are the wanted posters for the Kingpin they believe is on the run?
Why post Police officers in Hamza’s office just because a journalist who wrote a libel ridden article thinks he is involved? Why detain Mohamed’s brother for several hours on the guise that he is trying to facilitate the release of his brother? Since when is trying to help a brother yet to be charged to get a legal representation become a crime? Why is it that every day the police find a pretext to detain a brother of Mohamed for the whole day on the over beaten excuse of being in circulation? Who wants to create a diversion by zooming in the whole investigation just on Mohamed and his Minister Brother? How about the pilot, do they happen to have names and faces? Drug mafias have the capacity to buy justice at any cost, who has been bought and at what price?
The manner in which this whole issue has been handled show that we have a problem that goes way past the cocaine burst at Lungi. Something sinister is going on and until we know what it is lets allow justice to take its course perhaps this will give us the opportunity to solve more than just the drug problem.
My take is we must return back to the basic of “innocent till proven guilty” if not for Mohamed whom we have already condemned in our discourse and in the media but for the sixty or more people arrested in homes and hotel rooms all over the country. If my brother is guilty of such a heinous crime let the law take its course but for God’s sake let justice reign.
The desperation to zero in on Mohamed without due process gives the impression that there is more to it than meets the eye. Despite what the media thinks I come from a background with values diametrically opposed to Narcotics. To mention my family name and drugs in one breath is more than any punishment that could be meted out to my brother in the arsenal of state machinery. I would have loved to see my brother and the entire family charged with treason other than being linked to such a crime.
It is against this background that I appeal to the few good men in the media with a genuine interest to know the truth, to stop the media trial for a while and clear the stage for the judicial process. Let’s assume Mohamed is guilty. I don’t think it will serve any purpose to try him in the media with media journalists using different rules of evidence that are not consistent with the law.
I know there are people who can easily discount family and friends when trouble looms. I can’t do that because Mohamed is my brother by divine design and I will love to see him have a fair trial. When he did great things as team manager of Leone stars, I felt proud that my younger sibling is contributing to the development of his nation. And if he is alleged to have committed a crime of this magnitude, I will stand by him. If he is guilty he will pay the price for abandoning the right path. If he is not guilty he will learn to choose his acquaintances.
As we wait for the execution of Mohamed as prescribed by some media houses I ask that we ask him to state his name and age at least to truncate the principle of hearing the other side embedded in our constitution.
HE IS MY BROTHER NOTHING CAN CHANGE THAT GUILTY OR NOT.
By Oumar Farouk Sesay