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Archive -Judiciary

Somalis released by Court of Appeal |01 September 2015

The Seychelles Court of Appeal has freed eight Somalis who had been convicted for piracy.

The Somalis were declared free on Friday morning as verdict was delivered in seven criminal and 10 civil cases which had been before the land’s highest court during its sitting from August 17-28. In a first piracy case, the Appeals Court quashed the conviction of seven Somalis and their resulting six-year sentence, after it ruled that the Supreme Court had not been provided with enough evidence in order to convict them.

The court has ordered that they are now repatriated to Somalia. They will be accompanied by another appellant in a second case, a minor at the time of offence and who has also won his appeal.

It was, however, a near miss for his 10 other comrades who are serving a 23-year sentence on two counts of piracy, as the court was not unanimous in its findings. Judge Tony Fernando’s judgment differed from that of his two other colleagues – Judges Mathilda Twomey and January Msoffe – feeling that they should have all been released. He argued that he failed to understand why the trial judge had relied on evidence which he believed to be insufficient and that for him, there was no proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The former Attorney General further stated that the appellants have been convicted of offences of which they were not correctly charged, concluding that “this case should have failed”.

Judge Fernando supported his arguments by what he called “fatal irregularities” which had left a “lurking doubt” on the case. He pointed out that the prosecution had failed to correctly state the exact place of the offence committed on August 12, 2012, some witness statements were wrongly admitted and that other key witnesses had refused to testify in spite of their presence in Seychelles.

According to one of the convicts’ lawyers Nichol Gabriel, his clients could still have recourse to the Constitutional Court as they are convinced they have been denied the right to a fair trial. However, they will not file a second appeal as they feel they will soon be transferred to Puntland where they will serve the rest of their sentence. Mr Gabriel added that Judge Fernando’s dissenting judgment will however serve as precedence to future cases.

In three other criminal cases, Leonard Celestine had his conviction for drug possession and trafficking quashed due to lack of evidence, while for the same offence, Dean Lawrence saw his sentence reduced from 15 to 10 years. As for child molester Francis Crispin, he was not as lucky as the court confirmed his three separate convictions of eight years imprisonment for sexual assault on three minor girls in 2008. One sentence will though run concurrently and Crispin is due to remain behind bars until 2024.

In an interesting civil ruling in favour of Philip Quinty against Beau Vallon Properties, the president of the Court of Appeal Justice Francis Macgregor read that Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays should not be counted as working calendar days. This followed Quinty’s claim that he had been unfairly dismissed by Beau Vallon Properties – mother company of Coral Strand Hotel for which he had been working – rejected by the Employment Tribunal for late lodging. The court ruled that the appellant was in time as Saturday and public holiday should not have been counted in the lodging time span. The case will now go back to the Employment Tribunal.





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