By Momodou Jarju
Oustaz Ismaila Manjang has explained how he was arrested and manhandled by the paramilitary officers in 2011 while he was under custody at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Manjang was testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Tuesday on the attack on religious leaders during the reign of ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
Born in 1956 at Gunjur village, Oustaz Manjang explained that it was on Saturday when the Islamic Solidarity Association which he was an executive member, held a meeting for the Executive to discuss the way Arabic Schools in the country and in Guinea Bissau were been administered.
After the meeting, he went home and his wife informed him that someone was outside waiting for him. Manjang said he went out and saw one Mr. Sowe a police officer who worked at Gunjur Police Station. He said Mr. Sowe, a sergeant, told him that he was needed at the police station.
“What I thought at that moment was maybe some of my students might have problem with other children,” he said.
Manjang said he got out of his house and left for the station. He said he was transported to Gunjur police station on a white Land Rover sandwiched by two paramilitary officers he did not know.
He said one of the paramilitary officers who arrested him was tall and huge and talked to him harshly, ordering him to go back to the Land Rover when he got out of the Gunjur police station. Thereafter, he said he was later transported elsewhere he did not know. However, while on board, he thought of three places he was being taken- one was either Remand Wing in Mile II, two to CID (Criminal Investigation Department) or third at the NIA.
Asked whether at that point he was told the reason for his arrest, he responded in the negative. He said he later learned that it was at the NIA. He said the officer who ordered him to get into the Land Rover in Gunjur, asked him to alight from the vehicle and asked him whether he was the one who insulted the elders of Gunjur. He answered in the negative. He said the man told him he was lying. The man asked him for the second time and he answered in the negative again, he added.
He explained that the officer beat him with the baton on his left and right side and then asked him to remove his shirt and singlet which he did. He said the officer then asked him to strip his trousers and he told him that over his dead body, he would not do that. Thereafter, he said he was taken to the cell.
The prison cell he was ushered in looked dusty. While in the cell, he said two buckets were brought in and he was instructed to use one which had water for his drinking and use the other bucket to ease himself. Manjang said he asked one officer to help him with cartons which he could use to sleep and pray.
He said he initially thought he was arrested because he was a member of the opposition- a supporter of UDP and not APRC that’s why he was arrested and manhandled. Asked by Counsel Singhateh whether it was a setup, Manjang responded in the affirmative. He said mosquitos were biting him in the cell. He said his body was swollen and no medical assistance was provided for him.
On the third day of his arrest, all the NIA officers came to work, adding that an officer came for him in the cell and asked the whereabouts of his shirt and he told him he was asked to remove it. Nonetheless, Manjang said his son Ahmad told him that the person who arrested him was Numo Kujabie. He said Ahmad told him that Numo Kujbie was a guard under the Office of the President.
He said thereafter they asked him the reasons for his arrest and he said he did not know except that he was accused of insulting elders in Gunjur. “Then they asked me, do you have anybody who is around to bail you.”
He said one Alagie Ansunding told him on phone that they have been looking for him from station to station, but could not see him. He said his son Alagie Sanyang delivered the said audio containing the sermon which they alleged was the one where he insulted elders. He said when the NIA Officer listened to the audio, he noticed that what he was accused of was different. He said no charges were leveled against him. They took his statement but he was not asked to sign anything.
According to him, he was reported and he knew the person who reported him to the President, but he would not mention the name. He said he knew because the person told people in Gunjur that he would be arrested on Saturday.
He said he was released on bail and asked to be reporting at the NIA. He said after three days, he was handed over to the Drug Squad. He also said Modou Lamin Touray, president of the Supreme Islamic Council and Imam of State House wrote a recommendation to the Office of the President dismissing the accusation leveled against him. He believed that was the reason why he was let go forever.
Manjang said his passport was taken from Banjul Travel Agency as he was planning to go for Umrah. He said one Alagie Conteh helped him recover his passport from the NIA. Meanwhile, he said he has forgiven all and sundry and pleaded on Gambians to forgive one another.