By Mohamed Kai
Hon. Justice Momoh Jah Stevens adjudicating over the High Court No.1 at Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown has remanded, Rtd Major Alfred Palo Conteh, Rtd Col Sahr Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Hudges at the Male Correctional Centre for their alleged involvement in capital and criminal offences.
The first accused person, Rtd Major Alfred Palo Conteh who carries the bulk of the sixteen count indictments preferred against them, is charged with offences ranging from Treason, Importation of Fire Arms, Unlawful Possession of Small Arms, Concealing Arms to Making False Declaration to the National Commission on Small Arms.
He is also alleged to have planned and endeavored to carry out a criminal enterprise by force to assassinate President Julius Maada Bio at State House, when he was invited by President Bio to attend a meeting relating to the way forward for containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The second accused persons, Rtd Col Sahr Anthony Sinnah is charged with offence of Unlawful Issuance of 2 Automatic Pistols to Rtd Major Palo Conteh without adhering to the laid down procedures, as required by the regulations of the Commission on Small Arms.
Whiles the third accused person, Prince George Hudges being the Justice of the Peace, unlawfully Sworn On Oath that he had known Rtd Major Palo Conteh for over sixty years, when he contacted him for the authorization of said 2 Semi-Automatic Pistols, known same to be false.
When the charges were read to the 3 accused persons in the dock, they pleaded Not Guilty, after which a Plethora of Objections were raised by the defense counsels with regards to certain core legal issues relating to the entire proceedings and the medical status and welfare of their clients.
Later, an eleven-man Panel of Jury was empanelled as required by law, as they are the judges of fact and are expected to return a verdict of guilty or not at the end the trial of Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh, Rtd Col Sahr Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Hudges.
In her opening address to the Jurors, the Attorney General and Minister Justice, Hon. Pricilla Schwartz informed the court that the 3 accused persons are before the court for grave offences, such as Treason, Unlawful Issuance of Fire Arms and Perjury.
She further informed the court that the prosecution will lead evidence and prove that the indictments preferred the accused persons have a strong and unarguable legal basis to hold the accused persons culpable.
Hon. Schwartz also intimated that the prosecution will lead evidence and prove that indeed the first accused person Rtd Major Alfred Palo Conteh carried a loaded Semi-Automatic Pistol to State House including his co-accused persons charged with Unlawful Possession of Fire Arms and Perjury, before one of the State Counsels, Adrian Fisher requested for an adjournment to the court.
As a result of certain issues raised by the defense lawyers relating to the medical status of the accused persons, the presiding Judge Hon. Justice Momoh Jah Stevens gave directives that authorities at the correctional service allow counsels for the accused persons to have access to them.
He said the accused persons are Sierra Leoneans and they should be treated with dignity and respect, as they are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
He added that the accused persons should not be treated as criminals or enemies.
According to Hon. Justice Momoh Jah Stevens, the accused persons are humans, and that the authorities at the correctional service must allow at least two legal practitioners to access them at their detention centre, and issues relating to their medical status and welfare adequately addressed as required by law.
He then denied bail to the 3 accused persons on the grounds that the nature of the offences are very grave and would like to hear the evidence, before considering bail to the accused persons.
The first accused person was represented by Barrister Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, the second accused defended by Lawyer Roland Wright, whiles the third accused was defended by Lawyer Amadu Koroma and A. Nicol. The matter comes up again on Tuesday 26th May 2020.