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Daughter Cried Seeing Father’s Torture

By Sanna Camara

Madi Ceesay was President of Gambia Press Union, Vice President of West Africa Journalists Association and a member of the Federation of African Journalists when he was appointed Manager of The Independent newspaper in 2006. In his statement at the Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland, he recalled how his daughter broke into tears upon seeing the marks left on him after undergoing torture at the NIA.

“One night, around 3 to 4am, some masked men arrived at the NIA. I was taken out of my cell to a space between the admin building and the conference room area. That’s where I was tortured. Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba were the leaders, while others wore face masks. It was dark to recognize the rest,” he recalled.

“When they beat, they do not care where to beat, what to beat and how to beat. They used their boots, they used sticks, and they used cables. So I used my arm to protect my face, giving them my back. This is why my back bears so many marks. The beating would continue for ten to 15 minutes before Musa Jammeh would ask then to stop. They would ask questions and then continue beating,” Ceesay told the court.

Mr Ceesy’s arrest, like Musa Saidykhan, came on the heels of the March 2006 military coup that saw tens of civilians and military personnel rounded up and detained at various security facilities in the country. He spent 22 days in detention at the NIA before being released without charge. Madi told the court that these acts represented a flagrant violation of his rights as a Gambian citizen that are guaranteed under the country’s constitution.

“They asked questions like, ‘who do you work for?’ They also said journalists must not see the government as enemies and that we must work together with the government. One of them even said he lost his job [as director of NIA] twice due to the reporting of the paper. And that when they were done with us, our pens would be broken,” Ceesay explained.

After his release, the paper remained barricaded by the Police for two years, when Ousman Sonko was the Inspector General of Police. That his staff and himself were unemployed and fending for their families became a challenge. Meanwhile, Sonko denied the paper was close by authorities and maintained it was done through a court order.

“I hold no one responsible for my torture, my beatings, the deprivations and rights violations but Ousman Sonko. He was in command of the Police and it was his men that arrested us and handed us to the NIA. Sonko aiand and abated the tortures meted to the Gambians under Jammneh,” he said, referring the court to Section 6 of the Police Act of The Gambia, where the role and responsibilities of the Inspector General of the Police were spelled out.

Ceesay said he still bears the physical and psychological effects of this experience he suffered at the NIA. He still cannot bend properly when he performs his Muslim prayers, neither can he sit down for a long time without feeling pain. He is equally traumatised even after the physical wounds have been healed.

He is tye last aomg nine person to give testimony against Mr Ousman Sonko here at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Sonko meanwhile had his daughter, trained as a lawyer in the UK, join the defence team to support his father. His ex-wife based in the US, Njameh Bah, also gave an affidavit as a character witness vouching for Sonko as “harmless”, sources at the court revealed.

The session will continue with submission of closing arguments on dates to be announced by the court this week.

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