Gambia: "I Prefer to Die Than to Sleep With the NIA Officers'

14 February 2019

Fatoumata Jawara, the National Assembly Member for Talindingkunjang Constituency, on the 12 February, 2019, told the High Court in Banjul before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara that Sheikh Omar Jeng told her that she would be raped if she did not sleep with NIA officers. She said she told Sheikh Omar Jeng that she was loyal to her husband and she preferred to die than to sleep with the NIA officers. She was being led by Counsel Yassin Senghore in her testimony.

Fatoumata Jawara told the court that she lives at Talinding and she became a parliamentarian on the 6 April, 2017. She said that she could recall the 14 April, 2016, noting that she was coming from school (MDI) and she got arrested at Westfield.

She adduced that she was going back home and Westfield was the only way to use to go home, adding that when she got down from the vehicle she was boarding, she saw a group of people being chased by the PIU officers, stating that they were running in different directions.

She disclosed that she also started running and they caught her and threw her into a truck and was driven to the PIU office, further revealing that Solo Sandeng, Lang Marong and Kafu Bayo were also running. She testified that she is a member of UDP and she is the president of the Female Wing, adding that she knew the arrest of Solo Sandeng and others after her arrest.

She said that at the PIU office, they were gathered in a room where there was the former IGP, Yankuba Sonko, former mayor, Yankuba Colley, and PIU officers. She told the court that Solo Sandeng, Fa Lang Sonko, Kafu Bayo, Fatou Camara, Nogoi Njie, Lang Marong and herself were arrested. She stated that she could not tell how many of them were arrested.

She noted that photographs of arrestees were taken and arrangement was made to take them to Mile 2 while Yankuba Colley and Yankuba Sonko were present, saying that she did not know the person who was taking photographs neither did she know those who made the arrangement for them to be taken to Mile 2, but Yankuba Colley and Yankuba Sonko were among them.

She informed the court that they were packed in a truck escorted by PIU officers to Mile 2 and both Nogoi Njie and Solo Sandeng boarded the same vehicle, noting that at Mile 2, they took their statements and were taken to a cell around 4 p.m. She said that she and Fatou Camara were called out at midnight by a prison officer because they were in the same cell.

She further disclosed that they saw tinted vehicles and she was suspicious and told Fatou Camara that they were going to take them to the NIA, narrating that some security officers and men in civilian clothes escorted the vehicles. She told the court that they were taken to the commissioner's room and were divided into groups, noting that she did not know those in the civilian clothes but were from the NIA.

She revealed that she and Fatou Camara were taken to the NIA where they were searched and their statements were recorded and were forced to say those who were part of the protest, adding that she was taken to a building where she found Fatou Camara, Kafu Bayo and Lang Marong.

She disclosed that a tall man who tied his head with a scarf would drag people and take them out, stating that he was wearing a mask and he kicked Fatou Camara until she fell down. She adduced that he first dragged Lang Marong, Fatou Camara and then herself, narrating that they were taken to a very dark place where their faces were tied.

She said that her face was tied with her head tie by the tall man who dragged her out. At this juncture, she was asked what happened at the dark place. She emotionally kept quiet for some time and started shedding tears. Counsel Senghore then walked towards her and asked her whether she could continue her testimony, and she said she could.

Fatoumata Jawara then told the court that at the dark place, she was thrown on a table and her hands and legs were stretched and they started beating her up, adding that she was beaten to the extent that she could not move. She stated that those who were beating her were more than 20 and they used something very hard to beat her.

She added that she could not recognise those who were beating her because her face was tied, noting that she heard them calling someone whose name was Tamba. She stated that they poured water on her and the beating took place in the early hours of the morning. She told the court that she was dragged into a panel room where there was a big table and chairs, and there was a cameraman standing in front of them, and different people were asking her different questions.

She revealed that she could not tell how many people were asking questions because they put her out of mind, saying that she collapsed several times because of the beating, and they asked her to sit down. "I was dragged out and beaten up again and was taken to another room. The panelists were speaking Mandinka," she told the court.

Hearing continues.

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