By Halimatou Ceesay
Mbemba Camara, the 13th prosecution witness in the ongoing murder trial involving former senior Gambian security officers, Tuesday revealed how he came across a lifeless body in NIA torture chamber.
Mr Sandeng, organising secretary of the United Democratic Party (UDP), died on 15th April 2016 less than 24 hours after he was arrested with a dozen other activists for staging a brief but peaceful protest against the former regime of President Yahya Jammeh at Westfield junction, Serrekunda.
Eye-witnesses said Mr Sandeng and his associates arrived at the busy Westfield junction some 12 kilometres away from the capital, Banjul, during the afternoon rush hour and displayed a banner with the slogan “We Need Proper Electoral Reform”. They also chanted anti-government slogans and demanded Mr Jammeh’s resignation.
However soon after the protest began, they were arrested by a contingent of security officials and detained briefly at the Police Intervention Unit, Kanifing before being transferred to the feared National Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Banjul.
Yankuba Badjie, Louis Gomez, Saikou Omar Jeng, Baboucarr Sallah, Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang are charged with his murder.
They have pleaded not guilty.
Giving evidence at the high court in Banjul, Mbemba Camara recounted how Solo Sandeng, Fatoumatta Jawara, Fatou Camara, Nogoi Njie, Kafu Bayo, Modou Ngum and Ebrima Jabang were taken to the NIA headquarters.
He said when they arrived in Banjul, the detainees were in good health and were able to walk unaided from the vehicle to the interrogation room.
He added that shortly after they arrived, details of the detainees were taken before Tamba Misereh, and Baboucarr Sallah took Solo, Fatoumatta Jawara, Nogoi Njie, Kafu Bayo, Modou Ngum, Fatou Camara, Ebrima Jabang to a holding cell.
He added that some minutes later, he was asked by his boss, James Mendy, to open the cell door and when he did, Tamba and Baboucarr Sallah later came and took Solo Sandeng and others away before returning them to the cell between 11pm and 12am.
“Solo Sandeng was taken away from the cell twice. Tamba Masireh and Baboucarr Sallah took him for the first time and Lamin Darboe came for him the second time,” he said.
Asked by Lawyer Lamin Camara what Mr Sandeng’s condition was when he was picked up from the cell by Lamin Darboe, the witnessed replied: “He was very tired and was suffering with body pain. After that I didn’t get to see him until Barra Gaye called me on my cell phone and instructed me to go and check what had happened.”
He continued: “I went to answer to him. He took me into the security room where he pointed at something to me that was covered and lying on a mattress. I didn’t uncover it but I stood and looked at it. The thing I saw was not moving and I went back to the main gate.”
When asked by Lawyer Camara whether Barra Gaye told him what was the thing covered on the mattress, the witness responded in the negative.
He added that he later told James Mendy about what he saw and they went together to look at it.
“We went together to check it out. I was standing outside and James went inside to look at it. After, James called Sheikh Omar Jeng and we all went to look at it. Then we all went back to the main gate and Sheikh Omar Jeng went back to his office,” he said.
Mr. Camara further added that Sheikh Omar Jeng called Tamba Masireh and Baboucarr Sallah, who were then at the Atlantic Hotel to the NIA headquarters.
He added: “All of them met behind the back gate. I went there and Sheikh Omar Jeng came with the boys who were inside. They are Baboucarr Sallah, Tamba Masireh, Yusupha Jammeh, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Bojang. These are the people I can confirm seeing. They brought a pick up and went inside the security room. When they entered the room, they took out what was lying down on the mattress and put it in the pick-up truck.”
According to Camara, the thing that was put in the truck looked like a human being.
“That thing was lifted like a dead body. They held the hands, legs and other people put their hands under it. It was put inside the pickup together with the mattress. I saw legs and it looked like a human being. It has head, hands, legs, ears anyway I recognised that from the thing”, maintained the witness.
This description invoked laughter and murmuring in the courtroom.
When asked by Lawyer Camara what his conclusion was about that thing. The witness responded “I will say is a human being”.
The case continues