By Omar Bah
Human rights activist, Madi Jobarteh, has said he may consider going to court to compel the police to return his phone.
Jobarteh, who was arrested and released earlier this month, yesterday reported to the police as part of his bail condition.
The Westminster Foundation country representative was released on a bail bond of D100,000 secured by one Gambian surety.
His phone and that of his daughter were seized and kept by the police for the past few weeks.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday shortly after leaving the police headquarters, Jobarteh said: “They have extended the bail to November 9. They refused to hand over my phones. Instead, they requested that I open my phone for them to access it. I told them I wouldn’t open my phone.”
He said the country’s constitution guarantees the right to property and privacy.
“So, my phone is my property, and nobody has the right to take it unlawfully without my permission, and nobody should interfere with or invade my privacy, either in my home or in my correspondence, including my phone, without my permission or a court order. So, the action of the police is unlawful, and therefore I reserved the right to take legal action against the police to make sure that I get back my phone, and if they interfere with it, to make sure they are held accountable,” he said.
Jobarteh said he had told the police that his phone is irrelevant to the investigations because the report they are referring to was published in The Standard and is also on his Facebook, which they can access.
“Even if you are in Mongolia, you will be able to access it. Therefore, the phone is not relevant in any way to the issue. I told them it was illegal for them to keep my phone, and they have no authority to make me unlock it. It is only the court that can make that decision, so they should give me back my phone, but they said if I don’t open it, they will keep it. So, my phone and that of my daughter’s are with them,” he said.
Asked whether Gambians should be worried, Jobarteh argued: “I think we should be terribly concerned because for 22 years, the AFPRC and the APRC regime under Jammeh subverted our constitution and laws to weaponise them to infringe on the rights of Gambians, and as a result of that, Gambians mobilised under the coalition to kick out that dictatorship. So, if the police are inviting citizens for questioning on matters relating to their opinion about their president and government, we are going back to the Jammeh days.
“My article has nothing criminal, illegal, or unconstitutional. It is an article in exercise of my constitutional right to participate in the political affairs of The Gambia. In addition to my right to freedom of opinion and expression to speak my opinion about the institutions, organs, and agents of the state in terms of their performance, this is what my article is all about, and every Gambian has that right. So, the police have no business in that; rather, that is the matter for the government, political parties, citizens, media, and civil society to engage in an open debate,” he added.
He argued that his article is entirely related to the president’s comments that he will order the IGP to arrest citizens or political opponents who criticise him and that the country’s democracy is too much. “Now, all the things he said are inimical to our democracy because the president has no power to order the IGP to arrest anyone. These are the issues I raised in my article, so if there is any issue that somebody has about it, it should be the president himself, and he has all the capacity to respond to my article,” he said.