Treason …Palo Conteh Charged

By Aruna Rashed Toma Bangura

Principal Magistrate Hannah Bonnie of Court No. 1 in Freetown yesterday Monday 30th March, 2020 charged former Minister of Defence and 1st accused, Rtd. Major Alfred Palo Conteh with treason contrary to Section 3(b) of the Treason and State Offences Act as amended in 2010.

The 2nd accused, Deputy Commissioner of Small Arms Commission, Rtd. Col. Sahr Anthony Sinnah was charged with alleged unlawful issuance of arm licence, whilst the 3rd accused, Prince George Hughes was charged with alleged aiding and abetting.

According to the State Prosecutor, Adrian Fischer, all the three accused were arraigned before the court for various charges ranging from treason, aiding and abetting to conspiracy.

The 1st Prosecution Witness (PW1), Detective Sgt. Alhaji Brima Gaima, who is attached to the Joint Presidential Guard Force and resident at 34A Spur Loop in west end Freetown, told the court he was assigned to the Presidential Guard Force to serve for a little over a year and that his primacy is to protect the President and to maintain law and order.

The PW1 admitted knowing the 1st accused but said he did not know both the 2nd and 3rd accused. He recalled that on Thursday 19th March, 2020 when he was on duty at State House in his office at around 11:44a.m., the Chief Security Officer (CSO) instructed him to inform the reception that visitors would be seeing the President on that day, adding that he went downstairs to the other guards to relay the message to them.

The PW1 furthered that after relaying the message to the guards at the reception, he saw the 1st accused a few minutes later approaching the scanner as he stood nearby, adding that the 1st accused bypassed the scanning machines holding a small brown hand bag trying to gain access to the stairs leading to the President’s office.

The PW1 said one of the guards interrogated the 1st accused regarding his failure to tender his hand bag for scanning while on visit to the President, adding that 1st accused came downstairs and surrendered the bag to the guard who in turn handed it over to Staff Sgt. Dauda for scanning.

The PW1 said when the police in charge of scanning tried to call the 1st accused to scan his bag in his presence, he was nowhere to be seen and when the bag was scanned, they discovered a pistol in it, adding that he alerted authorities concerned about the incident. He said after explaining the incident to them, Capt. Angel and the CSO instructed him to make a statement.

The Lead Counsel representing the 1st accused, Ady Macauley made an application for the 1st accused to have access to free movement at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre as, according to him, he observed that the 1st accused was kept in solitary confinement permanently during his last visit. He said his client was in detention and not remand, and therefore pleaded with the court to give the 1st accused a limited time of lockup hours.

Bail application was also prayed for the 2nd and 3rd accused by Counsels Roland Wright and A. Nicol on conditions of health.

Principal Magistrate Hannah Bonnie granted application prayed for the 1st accused to have access but however objected the second application made for limited time of lock up hours, whilst she opposed bail for both 2nd and 3rd accused.

The matter comes up again on 3rd April, 2020.