Former Justice Minister denied torture allegations
Witness Lawyer Lamin Jobarteh, former Justice Minister, during his testimony at the truth commission on Thursday denied torturing Balo Kanteh at the time of his [Balo] detention at the National Intelligence Agency [NIA].
Balo was arrested in November 1996 in relation to his role in the attack on Farafenni barracks and taken to the NIA for interrogation. Upon arrival at the facility, Kanteh alleged that Lamin Jobarteh “slapped and kicked” him immediately he alighted the vehicle which took him there. But witness Jobarteh denied lifting a finger against his accuser.
“I have never, and ever lifted a finger against Balo Kanteh,” he said.
When he was asked by Counsel Faal about the matter, the witness initially claimed that he was out of the country at the time of Kanteh’s arrest. But the Lead Counsel showed him a stamp on his [Jobarteh] passport, which indicated his arrival in the country, sometimes before the arrest; when he agreed saying “I was wrong”.
Lamin Jobarteh was one-time Minister of Justice under former president Jammeh. And it is alleged that he tortured certain suspects during their interrogation at the NIA, which he repeatedly denied.
The situation between Jobarteh and the Lead Counsel was not a calm one, until the commission chairman recused himself from chairing the session, due to his relationship with the witness. However, the chairman later returned to take charge, after Jobarteh completed his testimony.