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Alleged Gambian death squad member denies German charges

#Alleged #Gambian #death #squad #member #denies #German #charges

A Gambian man on trial in Germany accused of belonging to a death squad that assassinated opponents of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, including an AFP journalist, on Thursday denied the charges. 

“I did not participate in these acts,” the defendant Bai Lowe’s lawyer told the court in the northern town of Celle, reading a statement by the accused. 

Lowe, 47, who is charged with crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder, including the 2004 killing of AFP correspondent Deyda Hydara, listened intently to the English translation of the declaration read out in German. 

In it, Lowe said he had merely repeated in the past what other people had told him about the facts of the case.

Explaining previous statements in media interviews that appeared to incriminate him, Lowe told the court that he had intended to demonstrate to his fellow Gambians how cruel Jammeh’s regime was.

Lowe, who went on trial in April, is accused of involvement in two murders and one attempted murder while working as a driver for the hit squad known as the Junglers between December 2003 and December 2006.

Human Rights Watch has called the proceedings “the first to prosecute human rights violations committed in Gambia during the Jammeh era on the basis of universal jurisdiction”.

Universal jurisdiction allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.

– ‘Betrays common sense’ –

Hydara was an editor and co-founder of the independent daily The Point and a correspondent for AFP for more than 30 years.

The father-of-four also worked as a Gambia correspondent for the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) campaign group.

He was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of Banjul on December 16, 2004.

Lowe is accused of having helped stop Hydara’s car before driving one of the killers in his own vehicle.

In a statement sent to AFP, Hydara’s son Baba said he rejected Lowe’s account to the judges.

“As a victim and a plaintiff in this case I feel disappointed, insulted and cheated by (this) statement that betrays common sense,” he said.

Hydara’s lawyer, Patrick Kroker, added that “the statement of the accused seems made up and incomplete. Moreover, it has already been contradicted on several occasions by the evidence collected so far”.

“It’s a step backwards in the search for the truth for the victims of Yahya Jammeh,” Kroker told AFP. 

“We assume that the court will not give any credence to this statement.”

Attorney Ida Jagne, who was in Hydara’s car when he was killed, also dismissed Lowe’s testimony.

“The statement is extremely not credible… because the accounts he gave in interviews were very detailed: who participated, what happened,” Jagne’s own lawyer Peer Stolle told reporters outside the courtroom.

Lowe arrived in Europe via Senegal in December 2012, saying he was seeking asylum as a political refugee who feared for his life under Jammeh. 

He was detained on the charges in Germany in March 2021.

Jammeh ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years but fled the country in January 2017 after losing a presidential election to relative unknown Adama Barrow. 

He refused to acknowledge the results but was forced out by a popular uprising and fled to Equatorial Guinea.

Five former members of the intelligence service were sentenced to death by a Gambian court only in July this year for the murder of a political activist during Jammeh’s rule.

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