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Sonko’s lawyer Appeals Against Conviction

By Sanna Camara in Zurich, Switzerland

Phillipe Currat, the defense lawyer for Ousman Sonko in Switzerland has filed an appeal against the conviction of the criminal division of the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, expressing a dissatisfaction with the conclusion of the court.

“On 15 May 2024, the Federal Criminal Court convicted Ousman Sonko of crimes against humanity. Today, the defendant lodged an appeal against this judgment,” he wrote on his wall on the professional social media site, LinkedIn, around 3pm Swiss time on Friday.

Currat said the court has a period of 90 days to notify the parties of its judgment with its fully reasoned judgment and to forward the case to the Court of Appeal. The parties will then have a period of 20 days to file their statement of appeal, i.e., specify which parts of the judgement they are contesting, and what their submission and evidence are.

The court of appeal must then rule on the appeal within 12 months, he wrote.

When we reached out to Sonko’s lawyer by 11pm on Friday to make comments on the post, Mr Currat said, “We just announced the appeal. Now, the Tribunal has 90days for notifying the complete judgement after which we will have 20 days to declare what parts of the judgement is contested. So today, without knowing the complete motivation, it is too early to tell you.”

 Meanwhile, Currat also saw the decision of the Federal Court as a small win for Sonko, as it compels the state of Bern to examine Ousman Sonko’s complaint about his prison conditions.

In a news publication yesterday, Ousman Sonko has obtained what is described as “a small victory” before the Federal Court, inviting the Bernese justice system to finally examine the complaints of the former Gambian Minister of the Interior against his conditions of detention in the prisons.

Born on the 9th of January 1969 in Kanifing, Sere Kunda of The Gambia), Ousman Sonko, a Gambian national now 55, currently spent a total of 2670 days in preventive detention in various prisons in Switzerland.

According to the said publication, Ousman Sonko, as early as the summer of 2018, had complained about his conditions of detention, describing it as torturous. He claimed he was being locked there for 23 hours a day, alone, in a cell equipped with an opaque window which only opened partially, so that he could see neither daylight nor the outside world.

Sonko also claimed he was denied basic hygiene products, and no access to family except for his lawyer.

The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona had denied Ousman Sonko all requests for compensation because of these conditions, which his lawyer argued violated his rights.

“Ousman Sonko is not granted neither damages nor compensation for pain and suffering, the verdict read at te Federal Criminal Court on Wednesday, May 15th, 2024, said.

His lawyer, talking to journalists at the Federal Criminal Court premises following the outcome of the trial process that began in January 2024, argued that “Compensation is not just monetary.”

“It could be in the form of a reduced sentence, and I believe my client is entitled to this due to his conditions of imprisonment,” Currat said.

The case of conditions of detention referred to the Federal Court for consideration considers that “the practice of the Bernese authorities prevented the appellant from asserting his rights in terms of establishing the unlawfulness of the conditions of detention”.

“The judges emphasized that the person concerned had a right to have the actions he considers to be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights subject to an immediate and serious investigation,” the publication stated.

The case is referred to the Bern courts, which must now ensure that Sonko can exercise his right to have his conditions of detention examined.

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