Sierra Leone rapper detained for a week without charges

Freetown based rapper LAJ, aka Alhaji Amadou Bah was arrested and detained on Sunday 12th June on his way to watch the Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau match in Guinea’s capital Conakry. He has since been in Police detention and had not been charged at the time of writing this article.

LAJ’s lawyer Madieu Sesay and family members have all confirmed that his trademark dreadlocks have forcefully been shaved while in custody.

This information was made available when his elder brother Ishmael Bah who, along with eleven others were brought to the Pademba Road Court on Friday, 17th June for the first time after their arrest on 13th June on misdemeanour charges. Their heads too were shaved in ways likened to the shave done by Blacker, the famous mentally ill person who lives on the streets of Freetown. 

Madieu Sesay also noted that allegations that LAJ was injected with an unknown substance whilst being tortured in detention can still not be confirmed.

In his open letter to Sierra Leone’s Inspector General of Police, Ambrose Sovula, lawyer Sesay draws attention to what he described as grave constitutional violations and unlawful detention of his client which are in contradiction to reports circulating in the international community with regards to Sierra Leone’s efficacy in respecting the rule of law. 

Madieu Sesay Esq. also shared that LAJ had been kept in solitary confinement without any knowledge of the offence for which he has been arrested and has further not been able to contact his relatives as his phone was taken off him. 

Madieu has demanded immediate access to his client. 

In another development, Ishmael’s lawyer Alfred Kamanda has described Ishmael’s ordeal and that of his fellow detainees “at the “Benghazi” detention centre made them look like new students of Blacker who have been inducted into the shaving school of “Blackermanism”. Blacker, who has mental health challenges, roams the streets of Freetown, and forcibly shaves the heads of other mentally challenged people like him.

“Detention centres like Benghazi hold no place in our democracy, no matter how pseudo it might be! It’s one of the legacies of SiakaStevens and such places should give way to decent and humane detention centres around the world. Nobody, no matter their offence, should be held in those places. It’s sickening and life threatening. It’s a big dent to our many achievements in the human rights space as a country and as a people.”

said Kamanda

Speaking to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, one of the detained suspects whose name has been withheld for reasons of safety, stated that they were tortured daily. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone visited the detention centre on Thursday but were unable to see or speak to LAJ.

Meanwhile, on Saturday 18th June, Sierra Police released a statement which states LAJ is under their custody and allegations of him being injected with “red substance while in custody wasn’t true.” The statement added that the “holding centre operates a standard procedure predicted on preserving the health and safety of all suspects and that all male suspects taken into the centre would have their hair shaved whilst in the centre.” The statement confirmed that Mr LAJ’s dreadlocks were shaved as required by the centre’s procedures. The police said whilst Mr LAJ is still in detention awaiting trial, his family, friends and the public should be assured he will be well looked after,and his rights respected.

Silvian Bah – Ko-fewndii Show /African Voices Platform

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