Sierra Leone Telegraph court correspondent: 05 June 2020:
Palo Conteh is charged on a 13 count indictment. Two of those counts – 15 and 16, relate to allegations of making a false statement on oath otherwise than in a judicial proceedings, contrary to section 2(1) of the Perjury Act of 1911.
The allegation of the prosecution is that Palo Conteh made a statement in his application for a firearm licence, saying ”He has never been found guilty of any criminal offence or have any charges pending for any offence in Sierra Leone or elsewhere which he knew to be false.”
Essentially, the allegation is to the effect that either Palo (Photo) has been convicted of a crime or had a criminal charge pending against him and lied about it in his application form for firearms licence.
In seeking to prove the allegations of making a false statement in counts 15 and 16, the prosecution called two witnesses – Police Officer Issa Sesay (Prosecution Witness 8) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) official – Joseph B Noah (Prosecution Witness 9).
It could be recalled that before the treason allegations against Palo, both the ACC and the Police were investigating him on various allegation of crimes committed.
Palo’s Defense Team was led by Dr. Abdulai O Conteh and Joseph F Kamara, along with Africanus Sorie Sesay, Ady Macauley and Wara Serry-Kamal.
During the court proceedings, Joseph Kamara Esq. and Roland Wright Esq. had both objected to the prosecution calling PW8 and PW9 to testify on grounds that the prejudicial effect of their testimonies will outweigh their probative value. The objection was over ruled by Judge Stevens.
Led in evidence by Joseph Sesay of the Law Officers Department, the following is a transcript of the cross examination of witnesses conducted by Palo’s Lawyer Ady Macauley Esq (Photo):
Ady Macauley: Detective constable Sesay, you investigated Palo Conteh on various criminal offences, right?
PW8 Sesay: That is correct.
Ady Macauley: Detective constable Sesay, your investigation of Palo was concluded and the file forwarded to the Law Officer’s Department in December 2018 for legal advice?
PW8 Sesay: That is correct.
Ady Macauley: The law officers department is yet to proffer legal advice on the conclusions of your investigation?
PW8 Sesay: That is correct sir, they have not provided us the legal advice.
Ady Macauley: Detective constable Sesay, since you concluded your investigation of Palo Conteh you have not obtained a charged statement, informing him that you are going to charge him with a criminal offence?
PW8 Sesay: No sir, I have not done so.
Ady Macauley: No further questions my lord
Lawyer Ady Macauley then proceeded to cross examine PW9 Joseph B Noah of the ACC):
Ady Macauley – Question: Joseph Noah, you are chief-of-investigation officer at the ACC, is that correct?
PW9 -Noah-Answer: Correct sir.
Ady Macauley: Joseph Noah, the ACC Started investigating Palo Conteh 18 months ago, is that correct?
PW9 Noah: Yes sir, that is correct sir. My lord I was supervising an investigation into an allegation of… (interjection from defense)
Ady Macauley: My lord it is sufficient that the witness has told the court that the ACC is investigating the 1st Accused person. It will be prejudicial to talk about the details of unproven allegations; and the prosecution is seeking to sneak through the back door evidence of bad character and that is inadmissible.
Judge Stevens ruling: Sustained, Mr. Noah limit your answers to the fact that the 1st accused is being investigated by the ACC but don’t go into the details of the allegations.
Ady Macauley: Grateful my Lord.
Ady Macauley: Joseph Noah, the ACC investigation is still on going, is that correct?
PW9 Noah: That is correct, the investigation is still on going.
Ady Macauley: That will be all for this witness my lord.
Listening to the above cross-examination, a senior lawyer commented that from the testimonies of both PW8 and PW9, it would appear that the Judge will direct the Jury to acquit Palo Conteh on Counts 15 and 16.
The reason he said, is that, the prosecution brought in the two witnesses to prove that there were pending charges against Palo Conteh in other investigations they were conducting which he is alleged to have lied about in his firearms application form.
Both witnesses, however, confirmed to the court that even though there were ongoing investigations, there were no pending charges against Palo Conteh.
The senior lawyer said this was an own goal scored against itself by the prosecution, and that given the seriousness of the treason offence alleged to have been committed by Palo Conteh, counts 15 and 16 were ill advised and unnecessary.
As for the 2nd and 3rd Accused persons, their lawyers hardly cross-examined them, as the testimonies of witnesses hardly touch on their clients.
PW10 when cross examined by Roland Right Esq. confirmed that Palo’s application for gun licence was a renewal, so he need not go through the processes again as required by a New application, given the fact that he had already gone through those processes when he first applied for a firearms license in 2017.
“Incrementally, the Defense team is knocking down the charges against Palo Conteh like dominoes which puts the competence of the Prosecution Team, led by both the Attorney General and the DPP, Easmon Ngakui, into question,” the senior lawyer commenting on the proceedings, said, as the trial continues.
Earlier, the Atorney General and State Prosecutors refused to provide the video recording they alleged shows Palo Conteh walking into State House with a gun. Their refusal they say, is based on the need to protect state House security, an excuse many in Sierra Leone find baffling.
“Why not show us the evidence of Palo entering State House with a gun, so that we the people can make up our minds,” one bystander said outside the court which is heavily guarded by armed soldiers and police officers.