FREETOWN (TV-News24) — A lead attorney for former Sierra Leone presidential candidate Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray says Friday they are appealing a judge’s decision that appears to prejudice their client.
Mansaray is charged with eight counts of alleged sexual abuse offenses to wit conspiracy, and sexual penetration of a 15-year-old girl. A co-accused Marion Arouni faces similar charges.
Judge Samuel Taylor had initially granted a defense motion to proceed with a jury trial last week — in the backdrop of state opposition.
But, at a bond hearing the following day, the judge reverses his previous decision and now says the case would proceed by bench trial.
“That’s quite shocking to all of us. Because jury trial is practically a constitutional right. Which, on the first day of trial, we had successfully applied for…jury trial, which he granted, Attorney Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai says.
The strange thing was Judge Taylor made the peculiar reversal of his own decision without any motion on the issue before him.
“The next day, he came without any application, he just changed it,” Attorney Abdulai said.
Judge Taylor’s reasoning for the reversal, was, he does not think the protection of witnesses in the sexual offense case would be served well with a jury trial, according to Attorney Abdulai.
Kamarainba defense team did not immediately challenge — in the courtroom — the judge’s reversal.
“We did not have that issue on the floor. We did not have the issue on the floor. The judge had ruled the previous day. We came the next day to argue bail,” Attorney Abdulai said.
In such instances, he continues, as in this case when there was nothing of the sort before the court — and a judge rules on it — the best thing to do would be to get a copy of the ruling, look at it, and then appeal it.
There has been a spate of politically charged cases recently in the country notably, the treason trial of former Defense and Internal Affairs Minister Rtd. Maj. Alfred Palo Conteh.
Conteh was unanimously acquitted by a jury of all treasonous, and other felonious charges but found guilty of two lesser misdemeanors — a verdict that was a big blow to the government. And shortly after, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was sacked.
Wara Serry-Kamal, a defense counsel team member for Conteh — who is currently appealing his criminal conviction — explicitly asserted that had the trial proceeded by bench, Conteh might not have been acquitted of treason.