By Yankuba Jallow
Banta Jaiteh, a real estate businessman who appeared before the TRRC on Tuesday, 24th November 2020 said his son who he named after former President Yahya Jammeh, renounced the name after he was arrested and tortured by the former regime.
He said his son changed his name from Yahya to Malick.
“My son renounced the name Yahya Jammeh after what I went through because he (Jammeh) wanted to kill me”, the witness said.
On why he went to exile, he said he was arrested by the NIA in August 2014.
The witness said he thought his arrest by the NIA was in connection with a land issue. He said he was left in astonishment when he was told that he helped one Pa Bojang to abscond.
Yankuba Sanno, Wassa Camara and others were said to be the people who reported him to the NIA, according to the witness.
The 62-year-old said Pa Bojang’ parents used to keep animals for his (Jaiteh) parents.
He testified that he rented the Futurelec Building, but was ordered to vacate by the ex-head of state, Yahya Jammeh.
The witness adduced that after Pa Bojang absconded, there was an offer of D1,000,000 for anyone who apprehended him.
Mr. Jaiteh testified that those who accused him of helping Pa Bojang to escape could not substantiate the accusation leveled against him.
He said after his arrest, he was arraigned before a panel of investigators at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He said the members of the panel included late Louis Gomez who was one-time Deputy Director General of NIA, one Tunkara and one Ceesay.
He testified that during the course of the investigation, two people were brought who both said they didn’t know him.
On whether he was charged with any offence, he responded in the negative adding that the NIA did not give him any warrant indicating that they were going to keep him there.
He testified that at the NIA, he was put in a cell and was given an Avian Bottle to urinate in, after which, the doors opened for them to go and pour the urine in the toilet.
“I saw Alagie Jawara’s 16 year old grandson at the NIA and his body was bloody,” the witness said.
The witness adduced he was picked from the cell by an NIA Operative the following day and was taken to a place where the electric lamps were put off.
He said while walking towards the stairs, a man hit him and he fell down before he was finally taken before a panel comprising 18 people including ‘Junglers’.
The witness said the Operations Director was Borry Bojang.
He said one of the NIA agents put his hand in his pocket and found a cash power number thinking it was an international number he was using to communicate with Pa Bojang. However, after they realized that it was not an international number, they decided to leave him.
“The one who used to hit me more was a ‘jungler’ who had a Millitary Jeep Vehicle,” the witness said.
He said while they were beating him, some of them held his hands while others grabbed his legs.
“When they were beating me, I was so tired and testy and I asked them to give me some water to drink, but they refused”, the witness said.
After torturing him, he said the NIA Officers took him to an isolated room behind the Director’s Office so that he would not interact with any of the detainees.
He testified that one Gibril, a soldier who claimed that Yahya Jammeh was his uncle, assisted him by massaging his body.
“Gibril told him that he was held at the NIA for one year 6 months,” Jaiteh said.
He said he told the NIA Medic that there was nothing wrong with him. He said he told him he wanted to have evidence and therefore decided to keep the clothes he wore when he was tortured.
Mr. Jaiteh recollected that he was kept at the isolation room for almost a month.
The people he was arrested with were Bakary Bojang, Modou Bojang and one Tambadou. He added these people were arrested at Yahya Jammeh’s mother’s house.
“I discussed with my co arrestees about what happened to me and I even showed them my back and they were sad”, the witness said.
Describing the injuries of Alagie Jawara’s grandson, he said, his jacket was full of blood.
After spending months at the NIA, he was released without charge. Prior to that lawyer Yassin Senghore pursued his case with the NIA which led to his release without charge.
At this juncture, the witness produced his underwear shirt which was stained with blood, and it was tendered in evidence.
A picture of the person that tortured him by hitting him with an iron was displayed on the television screen.
Mr. Jaiteh recollected that after he filed his asylum in Senegal, he used to attend his treatment in Kafrine.
He said Yahya Darboe, Pharing Sanyang, Wassa Camara, Modou Sowe, Ebrima Sanneh, Colley and a host of others were all receiving treatment in the same hospital in Kafrine.
He said in some of the meetings in Dakar the refugees held, there used to be more than 200 people.
On why he fled, the witness revealed to the Commission that one of his friend who was a court clerk, hinted him that the authorities were in the process of taking him to Mile 2 and as a consequence he decided to run to Senegal.
On the impact the arrest had on him, he said it is a setback for him, especially on his business and family. Mr. Jaiteh said his ordeal had also retarded one of his son’s educations. On the issue of his health, he said he is perfectly well.
The witness told the Commission that after he returned from exile, he opened a file with the Police in Banjul. He said the police told him that they were not mandated to investigate torture, but disappearance and killings.