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Tortured journalist to appear before ECOWAS court

(MFWA/IFEX) - April 26, 2010 - Musa Saidykhan, former editor-in-chief of the banned Banjul-based "The Independent" newspaper who was tortured by Gambian state agents in 2006, will on April 27th 2010 appear before the ECOWAS Court of Justice, in Abuja, Nigeria.

Musa Saidykhan was on March 28, 2006 arrested and detained by the Gambia Police Intervention Unit and the Criminal Investigations Department of the Gambia Police Force for publishing the names of alleged coup plotters, thereby implicating the former Gambian Interior Minister, Samba Bah. During his detention, he was repeatedly tortured until he became unconscious. The torture left scars on his back, legs, arms and right hand, which was broken in three places. He fled the country to neighbouring Senegal, where he received treatment.

Saidykhan was among several victims who were illegally detained and suffered all manner of cruelty at the hands of Gambian security agents in the aftermath of an alleged coup attempt in March 2006.

In order to seek justice for him and relief for many other Gambian journalists who suffered similar fates and escaped into exile for fear of repression, the Media Foundation for West Africa in 2007 lodged a complaint against the government of Gambia on behalf of Musa Saidykhan before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, seeking a declaration that his arrest, detention and torture by Gambian security officials was illegal, unconstitutional and contravened the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; in addition, MFWA requested US$2,000,000 in compensation for the violation of the Applicant's right to dignity, personal liberty and a fair hearing.

This is the second time that the Media Foundation has lodged a complaint against the government of Gambia. In the case of Chief Ebrima Manneh vs. The Government of Gambia (suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/04/07), the Gambian government refused to carry out the Community Court's order to release Chief Ebrima Manneh, another Gambian journalist who was detained by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 2006. The Court repeatedly served the government with writs in that case but it refused to make an appearance, compelling the Court to issue a judgment in default. To date, Chief Manneh's whereabouts remain unknown.

For the past three years, MFWA has been at the forefront advocating for Manneh's release, giving his case global exposure through consistent dissemination of alerts and press statements, holding public fora and networking with other civil society organizations to pressure the Gambian government to respect the community court ruling.

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