Having been advised by her lawyer, Joseph Daddly, not to testify against an allegation that she attempted to sell a woman and her daughter, identified as Famata Kanu and Kadiatu Kromah respectively, was enough on Monday, January 14, 2019, for Criminal Court ‘A’ to find defendant Hawa Banguara, a Sierra Leonean, guilty of human trafficking.
Famata Kanu, 37, and Kadiatu Kromah, 4 years old, are both Sierra Leonean nationals.
Hawa Banguara, according to prosecutors, was said to have collected US$3,500 from one Molley Passawe, believed to be the whistle-blower and leader of the Banjor community, on November 30, 2017.
At yesterday’s ruling, Judge Roosevelt Willie postponed his prison sentence for Banguara to Thursday, January 17, 2019.
Liberia’s 2005 Act prescribes a minimum penalty of one year imprisonment for labor trafficking of adults, six years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking of adults, five to 11 years’ imprisonment for child labor trafficking, and 11 to 16 years’ imprisonment for child sex trafficking. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for rape.
It was actually not clear what prompted Cllr. Daddly to advise his client not to testify on her own behalf, even though he made her to plead not guilty to the crime of human trafficking when she was first arraigned to answer to the indictment.
The not-guilty plea was enough to give her the opportunity to defend herself against the accusation; however, Daddly told her not to do so.
During the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, defendant Hawa’s body language suggested an agitating desire to testify in her own words, which likely could have exonerated her of the accusation.
According to prosecutors, while the defendant and her victim (Famata Kanu) were residing in Sierra Leone, Kanu was hired by Banguara to sell her used clothes.
Knowing the productiveness of Kanu, defendant Banguara decided to persuade her to come along with her to Liberia, to purchase used clothes, which request Kanu accepted, and she and her daughter followed Banguara.
Unfortunately, when they arrived in the country, Banguara’s promises to Kanu did not materialize. Instead, it took them four days sleeping in an abandoned house.
After that nightmare for Kanu and her daughter, Banguara introduced one Mohammed as their host and subsequently took them to his house.
While at Mohammed’s house, Kanu claimed that she complained about defendant Banguara’s continued absence, having left her (Kanu) and her daughter to the care of Mohammed.
That attitude, Kanu alleged, annoyed her so much that she informed the defendant about her desire to go back home, since she could not buy the promised used clothes for which they came to Liberia.
Shortly afterward, Kanu claimed that Banguara convinced her to stay for few days, at which time she was going to make available the goods for them to go back to Sierra Leone.
Before that, Kanu claimed that she had the opportunity to listen to a conversation between one Lahai Kamara, who defendant Banguara introduced to her as her Liberian boyfriend.
Unfortunately, Lahai could not be found to testify when the case was being heard in court.
Kanu, however, claimed that during the conversation, she heard defendant Banguara telling Lahai that she had her two children and was looking for someone to buy them.
It was when Kanu claimed that Lahai negotiated with Molley Passawe that his girlfriend, Banguara, was interested in selling her two children for US$3,500.
Passawe, Kanu further claimed, accepted Lahai’s deal and asked him to bring Famata and her daughter, because he was ready to pay the US$3,500.
Afterward, Kanu alleged that Lahai took her and her daughter on a motorbike and drove them to Passawe’s house where they met defendant Banguara.
Upon their arrival, Kanu claimed that Passawe left them in his house and came outside. He later arrived with some community residents, who arrested Banguara, but Lahai escaped.
Following these accusations, Cllr. Daddly pleaded with the court that defendant Banguara should not respond.