By Janet Sankale in Nairobi, Kenya
The trial of Bai Lowe, an alleged member of the notorious Junglers death squad set up by former President Yahya Jammeh, whose 22-year rule was marked by widespread human rights violations, is set to resume in the Higher Regional Court of Celle, Germany, on August 24, 2022 after being adjourned for a few days.
The defence will start by cross-examining Nian Sarang Jobe, a former employee of The Point newspaper, who narrated before the court how renowned Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara was killed on December 16, 2004. Bail Lowe, commonly referred to as Bai L, is being tried on suspicion of involvement in the murder. He is alleged to have driven the killers to the scene.
Hydara was co-founder and primary editor of The Point, and an AFP and Reporters Without Borders correspondent.
Jobe had earlier told the court that Hydara regularly dropped her and another colleague, Ida Jagne, home after work because they all lived in the same area. She said that on the fateful day, after closing work at around 10pm, “we took the Sankung Sillah Road, a taxi was following us and then the driver was flashing his lights on us.”
Hydara slowed down to allow the taxi drive to overtake him as he seemed to have an emergency. Instead, he came alongside their vehicle and a passenger started shooting at him. She heard other shots and saw Hydara bleeding from the head and neck.
She was also shot, in the knee, while Jagne sustained several injuries as she scrambled out of the vehicle.
“We went to Kanifing Police Station and officers from Serekunda helped us to get an ambulance to take us to Edward Francis Small Hospital in Banjul. We were admitted for a few days before being transferred to a hospital in Dakar, where a doctor pulled out the bullet from my knee,” Jobe told the court.
She said Hydara had told her on several occasions that he had received death threats many times due to his column, “Good Morning Mr President”, which was published every Monday.
Baba Hydara, the son of the slain journalist and also one of the plaintiffs in the case, had testified in the trial in June. He talked about his father’s two newspaper columns, “Good Morning Mr President” and “The Bite”, which discussed issues of national concern and socioeconomic development. Apparently, this did not please then President Yahya Jammeh.
He described the hardships his family suffered after his father’s death. The government did not conduct any investigation of Hydara’s assassination, but Reporters Without Borders carried out its own probe to try to pressure the government into acting. Instead, the authorities started a campaign to try to tarnish his father’s reputation.
Baba said his mission was to find justice for his father and the other victims of Jammeh’s brutal regime.
Another witness, Bakary Sanyang, who said he assisted Bai L to settle in Germany, narrated to the court some of the things the former Jungler told him about his involvement in some of the operations of the team.
Sanyang said he was a vocal opponent of the president. A family member and a friend had been killed by Jammeh’s men and he set out to befriend Bai L to understand how the Junglers operated.
The trial, which started on April 25, marks an important step towards justice. It is taking place under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the prosecution and investigation of crimes that fall under international law regardless of the nationality of the victims or suspects.
In a press briefing held on April 21, 2022, Babbaka Tracy Mputu from Trial International explained that Germany had integrated the principle of universal jurisdiction into its laws, and this allows it to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes no matter where they are committed.
The German authorities announced the indictment of Bai L on March 3, 2022. He is also accused of involvement in the attempted murder of lawyer Ousman Sillah, whose tribulations stemmed from his legal representation of Baba Jobe, a former leader of the parliamentary majority who had once been close to Jammeh. Jobe was eventually jailed for alleged tax evasion and was years later, in 2011, strangled by a group of Junglers in his prison hospital bed. Sillah survived the attack, but was badly affected.
Bai L is also facing charges due to his alleged involvement in the murder of Dawda Nyassi, a perceived opponent of the former president. Nyassi fought in Liberia’s civil war and Jammeh, who over the years had become increasingly paranoid of being overthrown, ordered his murder after his return to The Gambia, fearing that he could have been plotting a coup d’état.
This report has been produced with the assistance of a trial monitoring project carried out in cooperation with Human Rights Watch, TRIAL International, the International Commission of Jurists, as well as the Göttingen chapter of the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA).