Two prison officers accused of aiding journalist Alhagie Ceesay’s escape appear in court

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By Alhagie Jobe

 

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Ebrima Njie and Edrissa Manga, the two prison officer accused of being present at the time of the escape of radio journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, were Wednesday arraigned at the Banjul Magistrate court presided over by Principal Magistrate Omar Cham.

 

They are charged with aiding a prisoner to escape and neglect of official duties contrary to the laws of The Gambia. Both pleaded guilty and are remanded at Mile II prisons.

 

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Journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, who is the director of the independent radio, Teranga FM station, was on trial for sedition and false information since July 2015. He has been hospitalized on several occasions for serious health problems reportedly due to torture and ill-treatment he has endured while in detention. In April, Ceesay was reported to have escaped from his hospital bed at the Edward Francis Teaching Hospital in Banjul.

 

When the case was called on Wednesday, the state was represented by Counsel K Mbye who was holding brief for Counsel L Jarjue while the two accused person were not represented by any lawyer.

 

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Counsel K Mbye informed the court that she has no knowledge about the facts of the case as she was holding brief for Counsel L Jarjue. She sought for an adjournment in other to allow the actual prosecutor in the case to give the brief of facts to the court and for the accused persons to make their plea of mitigation before been convicted.

 

Background

Journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay was arrested on July 2nd by the National Intelligence Agency after he was accused to have privately shared by phone a picture in which a gun was pointed toward a photograph of President Yahya Jammeh. The image was circulating on the internet, and Ceesay was not its author. His radio station, Teranga FM, had been closed down several times over the past years.

 

During his detention, Ceesay has been held ‘incommunicado’ for two periods by members of the Gambian security forces. He was held in an unknown location from July 2 to July 13, then released.

 

He was rearrested on July 17 and detained at the National Intelligence Agency headquarters, which is not an official place of detention, without access to a lawyer or his family. He was taken before the High Court on August 25 and charged with six counts of sedition under Section 52 of the Gambian Criminal Code and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm among the public. He has denied bail on four occasions and since been under remand custody at the state central prison of Mile II until the time of his reported escape in April 2016.

 

Meanwhile, the authorities of the Gambia Prison Service (GPS) announced on state TV, GRTS, that Ceesay escaped from hospital. Yet, there is still no confirmation from Ceesay’s family about reuniting with their loved one in or outside The Gambia but its widely believed that he is hiding in a safe location in Dakar, Senegal.

 

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