PRESS RELEASE FROM CONCERNED SIERRA LEONEANS (CSL) ON THE ARREST AND DETENTION OF MR. JESMED SUMA
CSL has been informed today of the arrest and detention of Mr. Jesmed Suma, the Executive Director of CSL. We are informed that Mr. Suma has been refused bail and will be detained at the Pademba road prisons until Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Mr. Suma was originally charged for inciting the Njala students but that has now been switched to a charge of Sedition and disorderly behavior contrary to the Public Order Act of 1965.
According to eyewitness reports and the personal account of Mr. Jesmed Suma, he had been called upon by Mr. Joseph Sannoh, civil rights activist and executive director of Heal Sierra Leone, to speak to the protesting Njala university students who were protesting the closure of the university because the faculty and staff of the university have been on strike since October of 2016 with the government and ministry of education seemingly not engaging with a view to ending the strike.
Mr. Suma was successful in calming the students by telling them to suspend their protest and give the government until Wednesday, March 29, 2017 to respond, the students compromised and agreed to suspend their protest until Monday, March 27, 2017, stating that if the government did not respond by that date then the students will come out in full force and render the country ungovernable. Mr. Suma then went across the street to tell Mr. Sannoh what the students had told him and this was within earshot of a policeman identified as Mr. Alhaji Musa Bangura (alias Bloody Terror) who then accosted Mr. Suma, grabbed Mr. Suma by his coat and necktie and proceeded to slap Mr. Suma three times and started to drag him towards the central police station. Mr. Suma has stated that another policeman then used his knees to hit Mr. Suma in his buttocks three times as they escorted him to the police station. Upon arrival at the police station Mr. Suma was slapped four more times by the policeman identified as Mr. Alhaji Musa Bangura (alias Bloody Terror).
CSL is appalled and outraged at the brutality exercised by the police in the arrest and subsequent detention of Mr. Suma for simply relaying the information he had been given by the students to Mr. Sannoh. This situation has been further exacerbated by the refusal to grant him bail by Magistrate Binneh Kamara on the charge of sedition and disorderly conduct. It is our contention that in the circumstances these charges are totally without foundation.
CSL vociferously protests any charge that our executive director, Mr. Jesmed Suma, was inciting students, behaving in a disorderly manner, or engaged in any act of sedition as he is an individual who believes in democracy and the rule of law and it is on this basis that Concerned Sierra Leoneans was founded to protest and form a bulwark against what we perceive as the excesses of this administration in violating the human rights, freedom of speech and expression, the propagation of corruption in the upper echelons of our society and the erosion of the gains we have made as a nation under our fledgling democracy.
CSL strongly believes that Mr. Suma’s arrest and continued detention on these charges is a direct result of the protests, criticisms and condemnation of the excesses and bad governance of this administration that Mr. Suma has engaged in lawfully and legally as a member of CSL and as an individual.
CSL demand his immediate release and we plan on pursuing this matter of his arrest and, we submit, unwarranted detention as violations of his human rights and police brutality through the courts and international organizations should this become necessary.
Concerned Sierra Leoneans