Alagie Bora Sissawo, a culture and society talk show co-host on Kerr Fatou, is being held by the Gambia Police Force beyond the 72 hour constitutional legal limit for detention following the revocation of his bail on Wednesday, October 4.
In a dictatorship-era-style operation, the police detained Sisawo incommunicado for more than 48 hours with his whereabouts uknown and without having access to his family or a lawyer, over comments he made in reaction to a barrage of remarks by President Adama Barrow that directly threaten the state of press freedom, freedom of expression and the country’s fledgling democracy.
Sisawo, co-host of the ‘Badinya Kaacha’, a talk show about family relations, culture and society, is still being held at by the Anti-Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force at its headquarters in Banjulinding, 23km from the capital, Banjul, according to Kerr Fatou. Efforts to secure his release by his lawyer are so far unsuccessful, the medium told the Gambia Press Union (GPU), but added that a relative was allowed access to Sisawo this afternoon.
“Sisawo’s continued detention is a flagrant violation of his rights as per Section 19 subsections (3) and (5) of the 1997 Constitution on the legal limit for detention of persons arrested,” GPU Secretary General, Modou S. Joof, said. “We are calling on the police to respect the law and ensure his immediate and unconditional release from detention.”
Section 19(3) of the Constitution states that “Any person who is arrested or detained— (a) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of the order of a court; or (b) upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the law of The Gambia, and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and, in any event, within seventy-two hours.”
Subsection (5) states that “If any person arrested or detained as mentioned in subsection (3) (b) is not tried within a reasonable time, then without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against him or her, he or she shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including, in particular, such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he or she appears at a later date for trial or proceedings preliminary to trial.”
Sisawo was asked to report to the Kairaba Police Station on Wednesday, October 4 and told his bail is revoked. The police also seized his mobile phone and had him detained, according to Kerr Fatou, a leading online media platform, which airs the Badinya Kaacha talk show.
His arrest came barely 24 hours after the Gambian President Adama Barrow declared on 3rd October, 2023 that “people charged with offences will be rearrested even if they are granted bail by a court of law” as he opens his party’s regional bureau in Jarra Soma, more than a 100km from the capital, Banjul.
Sisawo was previously arrested on 13 August, 2023 for criticizing the Gambian President, Adama Barrow, and the Inspector General of Police, Abdoulie Sanyang.
At the time, he told the GPU he was questioned for a cumulative three hours on different dates over comments he made in one of his shows about the president and the police chief and the military coup in Niger. His phone was taken from him by the police for two hours during his three-day detention.
In the wake of the coup in Niger, Sisawo had expressed support for coups against “undemocratic and self-centered African governments” and also condemned the arrest of Senegalese citizens who protested against visiting President Macky Sall, and for saying that the IGP and President Barrow should be ashamed of themselves for arresting the Senegalese protesters, according to media reports.
He was eventually released on police bail without charge on 15 August, 2023.
“The GPU condemns Sisawo’s continued detention , and call for his immediate release,” GPU President, Muhammed S. Bah, said. “Citizens must be allowed to freely express themselves as guaranteed by the Gambian Constitution and various regional and international laws including the African Charter (also known as the Banjul Charter).”
The ‘Badinya Kaacha’ talk show, airing every Saturday, has been running for five years. It’s latest episode aired on September 30, 2023.