By Kebba Jeffang
Mr. Alagi Manneh, the number seventh accused person in the criminal trial involving the 13 Babylon residents standing trial at the Magistrates court testified that Mr. Lamin Bakary Jarju, the Alkalo of Babylon and Sulayman Drammeh a student on holiday at Babylon from Senegal were seriously beaten by the task force officers on the 14th August, 2013 at Babylon and Kombo Kerewan villages respectively.
He made this allegation at the Brikama Magistrate’s court before Principal Magistrate Dayoh M. Small Dago.
Mr. Manneh said he stayed in Babylon with his family for two years before this incident. He said he never had any land problem with anyone before. He added that he heard the arrest of Lamin Bakary Jarju, Babylon Alkalo on the 13th of August, 2013 and he went to the police station to make enquiries about him. He said he drove his car to the Wellingara Police station in Kombo North and when he reached there the officer he met confirmed that the Alkalo was in their custody, but that he cannot see him.
“I sat under the veranda with the Station Officer (SO) who received a phone call and later told his officers that he was ordered by Benjamin Wilson, the WCR police commissioner that Mr. Jarju should be taken to Old Yundum police station. I drove to the place to follow the situation whether they will stop there or whether they would take him to somewhere else. They stopped at Old Yundum station which was surrounded by the different security personnel,” he said.
“I saw them talking with Lamin in their office while I was standing outside. When they came out, they asked me where I was from and I responded to them that I am from Babylon. They said to me you are the people we are looking for. I asked them what happened and they said I will know later what had happened. As I wanted to talk they pointed a gun at me and said this is a Presidential order and they jointly handcuffed me with the Alkalo,” testified the witness.
Mr. Manneh adduced that the security officers were using three pickups and two vans during the operation and that he and Lamin boarded the same pickup. He further testified that the Operation Commander Jagne told the first accused Jarju that they would be going to his village and that he should show them his gang. The Alkalo asked him what gang he meant and Jagne told him that he is talking about his friends. He said Lamin said to him that everyone in Babylon is his friend since he hosts everyone there.
“When we got to Babylon garage, they saw Mr. Kebba Njie in one compound and they arrested him. They asked him if he knows the Alkalo and he said yes. That was the first time I saw Kebba Njie,” he asserted.
He said this was on the 14th August, 2013 and this was the same day he was also arrested while Lamin Jarju was arrested on the day before, 13th August, 2013.
“I don’t even know why I am in this case. I am even surprised. I was not pointed out by anyone who said I am part of the people who cut down 275 cashew trees,” he said.
He further adduced that no complainant was ever brought to them during their entire detention to say that they cut his or her cashew trees. He said he never wrote any cautionary statement, neither does he make stamp nor does he even signed something like such.
He said “Lamin Jarju, the Alkalo, Saikou Drammeh, a Senegalese student in Babylon on holiday, Ba Saikou Ceesay’s wife and Ndey Fatou Jarju, the Alkalo’s daughter were all assaulted. Sulayman was slapped and was later gun butted in the mouth until blood oozed out of his mouth while Lamin Jarju was kicked, whipped and gun butted on the head by the Operations Commander Jagne. Lamin shouted ‘you will kill me’ and the OC replied ‘yes we will kill you.’ We were later taken to Holgam in Kanifing”, he adduced.
He said at Holgam, Lamin demanded for his clothes that was all stained with blood but the officer refused to give it to him up till now. He said that would have been good evidence in the case. He added that his shirt was also stained with blood as he was jointly handcuffed with Lamin Jarju and he too could not get his shirt up to now. He expressed that he was not beaten by anyone at any point.
Under cross examination, Alagi Manneh told the court that he only sees the land in question during the locust visit. He said he cannot tell the court whether the land is in Makumbaya or in Babylon. He said it is not true that they cut 275 cashew trees because the complainant and the police were all present but none of their witnesses pointed out that he was part of the people who purportedly did so.
At this point, the matter was subsequently adjourned to 6th and 7th August, 2014 for further hearing.