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Inside NIA Torture Chamber: Journalist Madi Ceesay’s Ordeal

A former Managing Director of private bi-weekly The Independent newspaper and ex-President of the Gambia Press Union, Madi K. Ceesay has told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) how he was allegedly tortured by the military jungulars during his detention at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul.

Ceesay and his then Editor-in-Chief Musa Saidykhan were arrested in 2006 during a brutal government crackdown following a purported coup plot.  The Independent fell victim to the Jammeh regime after it published a story about the arrest of one Samba Bah who it mistaken for a cabinet minister with a similar name. After realizing the error, the paper carried a corrigendum and offered publicly apology the following day.

Testifying before the Lead Counsel Essa Faal, Ceesay, who is now a Member of Parliament, said Samba Bah was satisfied with the apology and left The Independent office happy. “But I’m sure the government didn’t leave it that. I think Samba Bah was later screwed and then took the matter to court.”

He told the TRRC that he was later detained along with Saidykhan in a ‘horrible and small’ cell at the NIA headquarters with no access to family or food. He alleged that during the detention, they were subjected to series of torture by Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba, late military jungulars accused by many other people of torture on behalf of the regime.

“It always happened between 3 and 4 in the morning. Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba would come. These are people who worked in the army but when they came during these times they were not in uniform. But they came with people who were in uniform. It should be between 6 and 7 but maximum is 8 [people].”

Narrating the first alleged torture, Ceesay said he and Saidykhan were taken out of their cell early in the morning and Musa Jammeh and Tumul Tamba spearheaded the series of torture sessions carried out on them by security men.

“As we walked out from the reception then they started kicking and slapping us,” he testified. “Personally I was quickly prepared for torture so I wasn’t surprised that I was going to be tortured. We were pushed to the ground and they started the beatings. These beatings would continue until Musa Jammeh or Tumbul asked them to stop.”

“They used sticks, electric cables and belts and they kicked and beat any how they wanted. So we were only at their mercy.”

Ceesay said whenever the beatings stopped Musa Jammeh would always ask them questions like who they work for. “I have this believe that they had this notion that all the media are Western agents. I told them I worked for The Independent newspaper. They wouldn’t seem to be satisfied with that and Musa would order the beating again.”

According to Ceesay, the beating could have taken an hour with periodic intervals. “If I should undress now certainly you will see lots of marks. I had very terrible scars on my back and they are visible up to now. I needed a medical attention but I wouldn’t be given.”

Ceesay told the TRRC that he and Saidykhan were warned not to discuss their ordeals when they were being released.

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