Lamin Cham, veteran Gambian journalist, recounts his traumatic experience at the hands of Jammeh’s torturers during his testimony before the TRRC

Lamin Cham, a veteran journalist, has recounted his traumatic experience at the hands of the Jammeh regime.

Mr Cham was testifying before the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission on Monday July 8.

The sitting is the first institutional hearing that focuses on the media and the plight of journalists during the Jammeh dictatorship.

The veteran journalist told the Commission that he was tortured at the NIA by two of Jammeh’s most feared torturers after he was picked up from Serekunda.

He said he was arrested and taken to Police Headquarters in Banjul for questioning after government agents hacked the email account of the U.S based Freedom newspaper, a staunch critic of the Jammeh regime.

Mr Cham said he was transferred from the Police headquarters to the NIA in the evening where he was tortured during his interrogations. He said he wasn’t told why he was arrested or even allowed access to a lawyer.

He named Musa Jammeh alias Maliamungu and Tumbul Tamba, as the leaders of a torture team that beat him up at the NIA.

Mr Cham said he was woken up at the middle of the night around 2am while he was in a holding cell.

“I was taken behind the building at the NIA where a makeshift arena was made. I was then placed in the middle of a sand ring. While I was there I saw Musa Jammeh, Tumbul Tamba and others approached me.

“There were eight of them and they were heavily drunk. You could smell the alcohol from their breaths even metres away. Before I could say anything blows and kicks rained on me.

“They had whips and canes. Others where using their fists. They stamped on me. I was bleeding profusely all over my body. When I was losing energy Tumbul would stop the torturers like someone controlling a band and they would stop. When I regained consciousness and strength then they would continue with the beating.”

He said he was surprised with Tumbul Tamba, the leader of the torture team, as they used to have a good rapport due to their shared love of the game of football.

Lamin Cham is a well known sport journalist and Tumbul Tamba was a staunch football fan and Arsenal supporter.

“That’s why it came to me as a total shock when I saw Tumbul leading those who were torturing me,” said Mr Cham.

He said they wanted him to answer questions relating to Pa Nderry Mbai and his Gambia undercover reporter, Omar Bah.

“They also wanted to know why I was mentioning Jammeh in my BBC reports and how much the BBC was paying me as their local correspondent. Why were you lying in your reports,” he added.

He said none of his torturers with the exception of Musa Jammeh wore any uniforms and that Tumbul Tamba wore a tracksuit.

He said he was later taken to an NIA room where he recognised Mohammed Hydara, deputy director of the NIA and Nuru Secka, director of Operations at the NIA.

Lamin Cham was arrested and detained alongside opposition politicians Duta Kumasi other journalists including Malick Mboob and Lamin Fatty after the Jammeh government hacked the account of the Freedom Newspaper editor, Pa Nderry Mbye.

The TRRC sitting continues.

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