Alhagie Sowe, a Gambian Canadian citizen, said he was a victim of police arrest and assault on Wednesday in The Gambia, Freedom Newspaper can report. Sowe, who is on vacation in his native country, had a horrible encounter with The Gambian police on Wednesday afternoon. The incident happened about 1:00 PM. He was driving from the airport end and when he reached Farato, Sowe said, he saw some uniformed police officers painting the road. The road was blocked, and traffic was at standstill, he added. Sowe was asked to drive on the other side of the road, which he did. He later parked his car to ask the officers why they were painting the road. He was told that the police were on a volunteering mission to paint the road. Sowe was taken aback upon hearing the officers response. He doesn’t think that road painting was the police’s job. He later started to take video and pictures of the police work. He was told by one of the officers that if he doesn’t leave, he was going to be arrested. He was subsequently arrested.
Sowe said while talking to the officer, he was suddenly grabbed, manhandled, and dragged into the nearby Farato police station. “I was grabbed by four officers. I was brutally beaten while being escorted into the police station. When we reached the police station, I was thrown into a chair; handcuffed on the wall; and one of the officers gave me a nasty slap. The officer who slapped me, was short and heavily built officer,” Sowe tells Freedom Newspaper.
Further narrating his ordeal, Sowe said he had suffered a swollen left cheek because of the slap the officer gave him. “The officer, who slapped me is a traffic officer. My left cheek is swollen as we speak. I am currently battling with headache. People should be careful when they come to this country. Nothing has changed here. Jammeh’s former operatives are still active in this country. This was not the change that we wanted,” he said.
Sowe was held at the Farato police station for over forty minutes. His phone was seized. Police had filed obstruction charges against him. He has been accused of obstructing the police from doing their job.
Sowe was supposed to be moved to the Brikama police station, but the police in Farato told him that they do not have a vehicle at the time to transport him. He had to use his own car to transport one of the officers, who was assigned to escort him to the Brikama station.
“After been thrown into a chair, slapped, and handcuffed; my phone seized; the police accused me of illegally taking videos, and pictures of their work on the road. They told me that it was illegal to take videos and pictures without their consent. I maintained that it wasn’t illegal. They later resorted to charging me obstructing an officer. When I asked them to return my phone, I was told that the phone was at the Brikama station. I was supposed to be escorted to the Brikama station, where my case file was forwarded. To my surprise, the police in Farato said, they do not have a vehicle to transport me to Brikama. I had to use my own car to drive one of their officers to Brikama,” Sowe explained.
According to Sowe, one of the traffic officers told him that he deserved to be beaten. “The officer, who charged me, told me, in the presence of his boss that I deserved to be beaten. His boss disagreed with him. The officer’s name is Saho. He is a traffic officer,” Sowe further explained.
Sowe spent about eight hours at the Brikama police station before he was granted bail. He posted a bail of ten thousand dalasis (D10,000). He was bailed by Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh. His phone was returned to him. He was asked to report to the Brikama police station on Thursday morning.
Sowe is not convinced that a meaningful security reform has taken place in The Gambia. He said police brutality is still a problem in the impoverished West African nation.
“I was not accorded respect when I was arrested. I was physically beaten, and dumped behind the police counter. My perceived crime was merely taking a video, and also asking the officers why they were painting the road. The officers told me that it is illegal for videos and pictures to be taken without their expressed consent or permission sought,” he remarked.
The police spokesman ASP Lamin Njie could not be reached for comment at press time.