Friday August 19, 2005
Tamba Borbor reports from Freetown
The enquiry into the death of journalist Harry Yansaneh started yesterday with the Coroner Magistrate Adrian Fisher calling for the observation of a full minute silence in respect for the dead man.
Admonishing journalists to stick to the facts of the case and avoid speculation, the legal battle started with Counsel watching the interest of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and the family of Harry Yansaneh, Blyden Jenkins-Johnston applying that the venue be changed and for recording equipment to be installed, so that proper record of the proceedings will be made.
He was supported by lead counsel watching the interest of the State O.B. Robin-Mason though he questioned the time it would take to install such equipment. Enquiries were made and it was found that it would not be possible, and in the words of Magistrate Fisher “We have to make do with what is available”. What was available was a stenographer who started recording the address by O.B Robin-Mason to the Jurors.
He explained that in normal court the jury bench would contain 12 people but they are six because it is an enquiry, “to look into the issues surrounding the death of Harry Yansaneh.” He announced that the Chief Justice had appointed Magistrate Adrian Fisher as Coroner and admonished the jurors to “arrive at a decision that would satisfy the public.” Mr Robin-Mason also announced that he intended to put forward about 20 witnesses.
The first witness Inspector Edward Aiah Samadia relayed how he was informed by the police communications that a fracas was taking place at Short Street. He disclosed that he went there with a team and found a crowd of people. After identifying himself he said a woman emerged from the crowd who introduced herself as Hon. Dr Fatmata Hassan, who told him that some journalists had assaulted her son and daughter, and they had been taken to a hospital, which she did not identify.
From the crowd he said somebody pointed out a man who was believed to be involved in the issue, but when he asked the man, he was told by the man that he was not a party to the fight, but had witnessed the son and daughter beating up journalist Harry Yansaneh. The Police Inspector recalled how at that moment he heard Dausy Kuyateh a journalist in a tensed mood talking at the top of his voice saying, “You feel say dis nar force for pwell, dis nar force for good. U nor go tell policeman for cam arrest me.”
The Police Inspector said he went to Dausy and enquired why he was so furious. Dausy he said told him that Lawyer Osho Williams had instructed the Police to arrest him. He said he pacified Kuyateh, telling him that no arrest would be made at that point. Inspector Samadia who is attached to the Operations section at the Central Police Station explained how he dispersed the crowd and later went to the Central Police Station where he met Harry Yansaneh sitting infront of Woman Police Officer 7998 Rachel Abubakarr who was issuing a medical report to him. He said he questioned Harry Yansaneh, who told him that he had been beaten up by the son and daughter of Dr Fatmata Hassan. He said Yansaneh even showed him his mouth which had blood stains.
He said he then took the two parties, Yansaneh and Dr Fatmata Hassan to his boss the Local Unit Commander Kalia Sesay. He said Kalia Sesay admonished both parties to hold their peace. The second witness WPC 7998 Abubakarr narrated how she issued a medical form to Harry Yansaneh on the 10th of May and the form was returned to her on the 12th may, which was when she took a statement in Krio and written in English from Harry Yansaneh. Next in line was Inspector Ismaila Samura Crime officer, who said his duty was to read all the files and give follow up instructions. He explained how he sent investigators to No 1. Short street on several occasions and found the building closed. So they could not get in touch with Yansaneh nor the son and daughter of Fatmata Hassan.
Later he said the investigator met Mrs Paul Kamara who told him that Yansaneh was not idle to go to the Police station any longer. When the investigator went to the No 77 Thunder Hill residence of Hon. Fatmata Hassan he said she claimed Parliamentary immunity and asked the investigator out of her house, telling him to report her to the Inspector General of Police. The Crime Officer who disclosed that he has been in the force for 13 years agreed with Magistrate Fisher that it was not the normal procedure that any case he has before him he would send the file to the Director of Public Prosecution for advise, as he claimed to have done in this case.
He denied Counsel Jenkins-Johnston assertion that he had failed woefully to perform his duty by doing nothing between the time the report was made and the death of Yansaneh, even though he had a file with statements of witnesses and even a medical report. He also denied that he had been cowed into doing nothing, because of the threat by Dr Fatmata Hassan. The last witness was the exhibit clerk who tendered in evidence the white pull-over that Yansaneh had been wearing that day showing the part that was torn around the collar. The enquiry was adjourned to today.