Friday, February 4, 2011

Torture Victim Journalist Musa Saidykhan

Torture Victim Journalist Musa Saidykhan Live On Freedom Radio!

Banjul, The Gambia—After winning a torture case against The Gambian Government, at the Economic Community of West African States Court in Lagos, former Independent Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Musa Saidykhan, is quietly awaiting for compensation, which is very unlikely from a despotic regime notorious for gross rights violations. Marks of torture are still visible on Mr. Saidykhan’s body. Saidykhan was arrested in March of 2006, following a coup story his paper published, which landed him, and Editor Madi Ceesay, in NIA custody. That piece nearly cost them their lives, as NIA agents exposed them to brutal torture.

Following his release, after months in custody, Musa Saidykhan decided to leave The Gambia, with his family. He resettles in Neighboring Senegal, where he spent sometimes before moving to the United States through a Refugee Resettlement Program. That doesn’t stop him from pursuing Justice. With the help of the Ghanaian based Media Foundation for West Africa, Mr. Saidykhan filed a torture case against the Jammeh regime. He later won the case after a contested legal tussle even though during the trial authorities in Banjul denied any wrongdoing.

His court victory was widely reported by the International press—signaling that perpetrators of impunity in Banjul will soon have their day in court. Mr. Saidykhan, is currently residing in the US. The Freedom Radio contacted him about his court victory. We began by asking him his reaction to the court verdict?

Mr. Saidykhan, gave a vivid account about how he was stripped naked, and brutally tortured by thugs acting under the directives of President Jammeh. He was not only electrocuted on his genitals by his torturers led by the late Jammeh close confidant Major Musa Jammeh, and Captain Tubul Tamba, Mr. Saidykhan was denied medical treatment. He suffered from a fractured hand, and massive body pain, he said. His release was delayed due to the wounds he sustained during the torture sessions.

“ One of the reasons they couldn’t release me was because of the wounds I sustained during the torture sessions. The NIA told me that they cannot release me like that… They were waiting for my wounds to heal because the NIA told me that they don’t want people to see my wounds,” Mr. Saidykhan told Freedom Radio.

After spending one week at the police head quarters in Banjul, together with other 45 detainees, Saidykhan said he was transferred to the NIA main offices at Marina Parade, where he, and his colleague Madi Ceesay were mercilessly tortured.

Mr. Saidykhan is of the view that his arrest, and subsequent detention was “state managed.” He says the regime uses the March coup as a basis to pursue their long harbored plot to put him in trouble. Saidykhan had in the past complained to the South African Government about the rights abuses in Gambia, which prompted the former President to take up the matter with The Gambian dictator. The disappearances of journalist Chief Manneh, former UDP member Ousman Jatta, AKA Rambo, and Kanyiba Kanyi were among the queries Saidykhan raised with the South African administration.

He was arrested shortly after his return to the country, but President Mbeki threatens to boycott the African Union Summit to be held in Banjul at the time if Jammeh fails to release the journalist. South Africa said it would also not contribute towards the funding of the Summit unless Jammeh releases the Independent Editor, Saidykha said.

Come his March arrest, Jammeh uses the occasion to vent his anger against the journalist. He dispatched his most trusted aides to supervise the torture of Saidykhan, and Madi Ceesay. Mr. Saidykhan had pass out during the torture session because he couldn’t sustain the beatings, and electrocution, he tells Freedom Radio. NIA employees could be seen shedding tears, as they could not believe that Jammeh’s thugs would go extra miles to attempt to take the lives of Saidykhan, and Ceesay. Some of the agents even provided them with a locally made body pain medication to nurse their injuries.

After his release, Saidykhan was denied treatment by local doctors. None of the private physicians were ready to take his case—for fear of possible reprisal from the dictator. He was compelled to resettle to neighboring Senegal, where he, and six months pregnant wife traveled overnight with a boat to Dakar.

In Dakar, Saidykhan was accorded with Medical treatment, thanks to the help of some rights groups. He relocates on numerous occasions, from one apartment to the other, because the NIA went as far as trying to trail him in Senegal. Saidykhan’s neighbor former Foroyaa reporter Yaya Dampha, narrowly escape abduction before Musa’s own eyes. Some Gambian security operatives tried to force the way into Dampha’s room, but thanks to the intervention of neighbors, the officials were chased away. Dampha later resettles in Sweden, while he Musa Saidykhan, and his family were granted refugee status in the United States.

Mr. Saidykhan is still determined to fight for Gambians rights. He says what is happening in The Gambia today is unacceptable. He says it should be the duty of every Gambian to take our country back from this heartless Government. Many Gambian died under Jammeh’s rule, while the majority of the population’s elites have been forced into exile.

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