Alhagie Ceesay broken, tired, nauseated, sick, and almost at the point of despair sat staring at an empty space, except for an occasional effort to give his lawyers an undivided attention, he seemed completely out of it. But then again, judging by the picture (talking to his lawyer in the photo), the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true. This sad scene of the 25 year old played out in court on Monday, February 22. The case was adjourned to Monday, February 29, a date he failed to appear in court because he was too sick to attend – he spent that day lying helplessly down on a hospital bed. When the case was called, the Prisons officer told the court that the “accuse is sick and admitted at RVTH.” The case was adjourned yet again to March 15, between 1PM and 2PM.
This was the umpteenth time Alhagie Ceesay has been dragged to court to attend proceedings in a case that is as frivolous as it can get. Even UN Human Rights Council couldn’t help but depart from its usual diplomatic language to; in a scathing report, describe the detention of this manager of Taranga FM Radio Station as “arbitrary”
In the meantime, the notorious Mile 2 Prisons is where he is calling home – thanks to President Yahya Jammeh’s evil scheme to silence a young man who poses absolutely no threat to his rule, except for the radio station Alhagie’s manages effort to translate local papers from English to the local languages.
Alhagie’s case is a stark reminder of the brutal realities of life in this impoverished country of 1.9 million inhabitants, and journalists have undoubtedly taken the brunt of the madness – President Yahya Jammeh, it seems has truly made good on his promise that “They talk about rights, human rights, and freedom of the press, and say that this country is a hell for journalists. There are freedoms and responsibilities. The journalists are less than 1 percent of the population, and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1 percent of the population to destroy 99 percent of the population, you are in the wrong place.” The Gambia is branded by Human Rights and journalist rights groups as the worst country for journalists – none like it in Africa. Since his coming to power in a military coup in 1994, hundreds of journalists have fled, essentially wiping the entire country of any semblance of an independent press. Except for Foroyaa Newspaper whose journalists write under the shied of the opposition PDOIS political party, none other dares even highlight the cases of missing, killed, tortured, illegally detained, and disappeared Gambians in whose circumstance the government is suspected to have had a hand. The ones that fled are the lucky ones – renown journalist Deyda Hydara and journalist Ebrima Chief Manneh were not so lucky – the former was murdered in cold blood while the latter’s disappearance has still not been solved, Yahya Jammeh’s involvement in both crimes being pretty much all but confirmed at this point.
So what makes Alhagie’s case even more urgent and dire is the fact that his health according to prison guards, hospital sources, and family members is failing fast, and if he is not released immediately and sent overseas for medical treatment, he could suffer the same fate as Sheriff Dibba, the former head of The Gambia Transport Control Association, who recently died in custody because of his ill health being compounded by the ill treatment he received in the hands of the security forces. Alhagie was severely tortured during his previous arrests by the security forces under the orders of Jammeh. The Gambia’s sad ordeal continues and Fatu Network will be reporting all developments.