“Sometimes it was not easy to have access to our clients and some of the times, they are kept for more than 72 hours and needed to see lawyers.”
Giving examples of police denying her access to see her clients, she explained that when Mariama Denton was arrested in 2006, she tried on many occasions to visit her at the Mile 2 Prison, but to no avail. She added Lamin Tunkara was not initially denied access, but at the later part, they used to give excuses and eventually said he (Lamin) was no more in their custody.
Barrister Cham further explained that when she visited her clients, Bai Lowe and others, who were incommunicado for two years, she was directed to one of the senior commissioners who told her that the detainees couldn’t be released. She indicated that Bai Lowe and colleagues were kept on the orders from the top and she couldn’t have access to them.
“Even if we were granted access to see our clients, they wouldn’t give us privacy; instead, they would be standing beside.”
She told the commission that some of her clients normally complained about slaps by the police, adding most of the severe tortures took place at the NIA headquarters.
“I don’t have personal experience but it was known that some of the magistrates receive command on whether to grant bail or not. I was never allowed to visit any of my clients detained at the NIA,” she recalled.
On the alleged 2008 coup, the witness said the soldiers were tried at the Yundum Barrack Court Martial and all of those alleged had been tortured. She said the lawyers were denied access to the NIA just to cover-up the tortures meted on the detainees.
On the detention of UDP militants in 2016, she further recalled that Antumana Gaye and she visited the arrestees but were denied access, saying some of the militants were transferred to Janjanburreh Prison and tried at Mansakonko Magistrate’s Court.
With regard to a girl child who suffered detention at the prison, she testified that she and Sagar Jahateh visited the child, who was 17 years and was in prison for two years without trial.
“The child was accused of killing her husband and I believe she got married at the age of 13 and the laws of the country do not allow early marriages. The police couldn’t find the case file but with our efforts, she was later granted bail by the court.”
She testified that one of her clients, Babou Janha was convicted and sentenced to 10 years by the court for concealment of treason with zero evidence.
Quizzed about former witness Cherno Marena’s allegation that the DPP did receive instructions from the President or the Attorney General mostly on political cases, Neneh said she agreed with Marena.