(JollofNews) – Alhagie Jobe, the Gambian journalist who was in 2013 arrested and prosecuted by the Gambian government and detained for almost two years in jail has recalled the cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, beatings and psychological abuse and injury he went through under the National Intelligence Agency of the Gambia.
Exactly three years ago today – on 8th February 2013, Jobe was arrested at gun point, detained incommunicado at the NIA headquarters in Banjul for one month, 3 days before been remanded in prison custody where he would spend one year and six months.
Jobe, who was the deputy editor-in-chief of the leading daily newspaper, Daily Observer newspaper from 2009 to 2013, stood trial on sedition charges and was acquitted and discharged by a court in Banjul on September 3rd, 2014 – after one year, six months detention in the state central prison of Mile II.
The culture of persecution and injustice towards journalists in The Gambia remains pervasive, by reference to multiple examples of mistreatment of journalists, including credible allegations of State-directed arrests and torture.
Following his acquittal, the Gambia government, through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution at the Ministry of Justice, filed an appeal at the Gambia Court of Appeal challenging his acquittal. Jobe has since fled The Gambia as he risked returning to prison if he had stood the appeal.
Narrating his case to this medium from his refuge country, Mr Jobe said:
“I was arrested on the 8th February 2013 by the Gambia National Intelligent Agency (NIA), locked alone in a completely dark room for three days during which I was beaten with fists and sticks to the point of unconsciousness on multiple occasions, subjected to cigarette burns inflicted by NIA officials, until a superior officer ordered my immediate transfer to a medical facility, where it was concluded that I was badly injured.
Due to the physical torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, beatings and psychological abuse and injury, including beatings, burnings, I was detained incommunicado in the NIA in Banjul for one month, 3 days during which they claimed to be investigating my case.
The arrest was in connection to an article that we were investigating, regarding one soldier who refused to take part in the execution of the 9 inmates executed in the Gambia in 2012. The article was not even published, but surprisingly, during our investigation, it was leaked to the NIA which lead to my arrest. The article was well prepared for publication. We got credible sources, facts and even interviewed the soldier himself directly from the US where he was seeking refuge after defying authority to take part in what he called an ‘ungodly and cruel execution’. He explained in detail why he defied to take part despite the command from the president to which resulted to his flee out of the country.
On the first week of March 2013, the NIA completed their investigation. I was handed over to the Police Prosecution Unit with five counts of sedition and other sedition related offences. The police took me to court at the Kanifing Magistrates Court where I first appeared and answered to the charges. I pleaded not guilty and was immediately remanded in prison custody at the state central prison of Mile II.
On the 14th May, 2013, the case was transferred to the Special Criminal Court under the High Court of the Gambia with the Gambia government represented by the Director of Public Prosecution who took over the case from the police. There, I was slapped with six different new charges; seditious intention, seditious publication, possession of seditious publication, false information, making preparation to do act with seditious intention; and reckless and negligent act. Yet still, I remained in prison throughout.
Until, on the 3rd September 2014, I was acquitted and discharged by the Court of all the counts as the state could not proof the case. Therefore, I spent 1 year, 6 months in remand custody.
Just a month after my release, which was a big blow to the government, the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution filed an appeal at the Gambia Court of Appeal, insisting that I should not have walked away free; that I should and MUST go to jail.
After consultation with my lawyer, I then fled out of the Gambia for safety as if I where to stay in the Gambia, I would have been rearrested to face the appeal which might have led to many years imprisonment.”
Today, Jobe is living in state of fear and his life is at risk as he is wanted in the Gambia to face the trial. He is appealing for support to immediately relocate out of Senegal for the safety of his life.
“The Gambia and Senegal are neighbours. We have seen people sent back from Senegal to Gambia to face justice. The two governments are working hand in hand. It is totally not safe to continue to live in Senegal when I am wanted in The Gambia and the appeal against my acquittal is still pending. The Gambia government is doing all it can to make sure I am sent back home to face the court. I really need help to move out of Senegal as soon as possible” he said.
According to Jobe, the government of President Yahya Jammeh has shown little or no respect for the fundamental human rights of Gambian citizens. He said arbitrary arrests and detentions have increased; security forces continue to harass and mistreat detainees, prisoners, opposition members, journalists, and civilians with impunity.
“The government has infringed on privacy rights and restricted freedom of speech and press. Disappearances and mysterious killings have become the order of the day. The killing of editor Deyda Hydara is a clear example and the disappearance of comrade journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who I had worked with in the same office for years” Jobe said.
Jobe further appealed to UN human right bodies and the independent, non-profit and media organisation with global voice of journalists, promoting press freedom, freedom of expression and media rights to come to his rescue from been re-arrested and deported to The Gambia.
“I have gone through all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment-physical and psychological abuse and injury, during detention and I don’t want it to happen to me again. If I am sent back to the Gambia, I might even encounter worst than what I went through and to avert this, I need support for immediate relocation” he concluded.
Courtesy of The News Hub