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CJ appoints coroner to probe death of prisoner at DLEAG cell

May 14, 2020, 12:29 PM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Hassan B. Jallow, the Chief Justice of The Gambia acting pursuant to the Coroner’s Act, Laws of The Gambia, has designated Her Worship Mrs. Isatou Janneh-Njie, Principal Magistrate Kanifing Magistrates’ Court, as Coroner to inquire the death of Mr. Januario Wande Beducande Findem, a Bissau Guinean national who was alleged to have committed suicide. He was reportedly arrested with cocaine by officers of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia (DLEAG) last month.

The incident happened while at detention at the Sensitive Investigation Unit (STI) of the narcotics agency in Bijilo.

Findan was found hanging in his cell at the STI detention centre in Bijilo.

A release sent to this medium yesterday indicated that the late Mr. Findem is reported to have died on 21 April, 2020 at Sensitive Investigation Unit of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia.

 The coroner, the released further added, will conduct the inquiry at the premises of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.

The Bissau Guinean was reported arrested on 26 January 2020 at the Giboro Border Post in the West Coast Region with 12 pellets of alleged cocaine weighing 116kg and 800mg.

The spokesperson of the DLEAG, Ousman Saidybah, last month told The Point that: “After the arrest of the suspect, the matter was referred to the Sensitive Investigation Unit (SIU) for further investigation. However, on 30 January 2020, drug samples were sent for weighment and sampling analysis. Chromatographic analysis of the sample confirmed the presence of cocaine,” Saidybah added.

According to him, an analytical report on the analysis conducted was issued on 13 February 2020. “Upon completion of the investigation, the suspect was charged for being in possession of prohibited drug for the purpose of drug trafficking.”

“He was arraigned at the Brikama Magistrates Court on 17 February 2020. However, the case could not proceed due to lack of Creole language interpreter.  In the same vein, he appeared before the same court on 26 February and 2 March 2020 respectively.”

The case could not proceed on both occasions due to lack of an interpreter. Subsequently, the case proceeded on his fourth appearance on 24 March 2020 and he was remanded at Mile II Central Prison. “However, the prison authorities declined to admit him because the escorts arrived with him after 18:00 hours GMT.”

“As per procedure and operational standards, admission was closed for the day. The following day being 25 March 2020, he was taken again to Mile II and was admitted.”

DLEAG PRO added: “On 26 March 2020, instructions were given for him to be returned to DLEAG custody due to covid-19 outbreak; hence that’s why he was detained at the STI unit in Bijilo. Official correspondence was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the notification of the Bissau Embassy in The Gambia on 26 March 2020.”

The agency spokesperson, however, denied reports suggesting that the Bissau Guinean national was tortured while in detention for the second time at the STI.

“How could we torture someone whose case had already been investigated and the accused is being charged and was going to court. I can clearly tell you that such rumours are totally false. At DLEAG, we don’t torture anybody either to obtain information from him or whatever the reason may be.”

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