25.03.2004 Regional News

Witness tells Commission of torture by soldiers

25.03.2004 LISTEN

Sunyani, March 24, GNA- A witness on Wednesday told the Commission of how some soldiers tortured him during the 31st December 1981 coup. Mr. Thomas Kojo Gyasi Ababio, a former food contactor, has an inch long scar on the left eye, a foot-long scar under the rib case and other scars on his knees, elbows and other parts of the body as a result of the torture.

Witness, from Nkoranza Yefri and now a farmer told the Commission that he was a food contractor and together with a friend called Alhaji Ankamah, used to supply food items to the regional hospital, central prisons and the Department of Social Welfare, all in Sunyani. He said Alhaji Ankamah was the Regional Treasurer of the People's National Party (PNP) but he had never been involved in politics. Mr. Ababio said following the 31st December coup his friend left for Cote d'Ivoire "because of the way soldiers were maltreating political activists".

He said on February five, 1982 whilst cuddling his child whilst his wife was busy doing something elese, some soldiers entered his house and ordered him to come out and as he did so he saw three military vehicles parked in front of the house loaded with soldiers and some people already arrested.

Witness said the soldiers, led by Staff Sergeant Moro, then asked him about the whereabouts of Alhaji Ankamah and when he replied that he had left the country, they ordered him to go and look for him him.

"They later searched all the rooms in my house including the house of Alhaji, which was near to mine and as they could not find anything nor Alhaji they subjected me to more severe beatings with their belt and hands and with blood oozing from my nose and mouth took me to the filling station at the Sunyani lorry park where they shouted for people to come and witness their first firing squad exercise in Sunyani. "The soldiers said they had executed some people in Ho, Takoradi, Koforidua and some other places but not in Sunyani so people should come and see the essence of the revolution".

Mr. Ababio said he was ordered to face a wall with his hands raised to be shot and as he turned his head to see if they really meant to shoot him, one soldier stepped forward to give him two "dirty" slaps. He said he was later taken to the regional hospital where he was brutalized again and then to the Liberation barracks where they kept him for five days.

On his release he was later made to appear before the national investigations committee in Sunyani, headed by one Lt Atuahene, and a letter was written to the Barclays bank in Sunyani to freeze my accounts as well as that of Alhaji Ankamah.

Two tractors and a Volvo saloon car belonging to Alhaji as well as his Peugeot car were seized and have never been returned. Witness thanked the Commission for the opportunity to tell his story to the world "as I am at last relieved of the pain and bitterness that I harboured" and that through the military brutality, he had developed hearing and waist problems.

Another witness, Mr. Francis Adjei-Barnie, a farmer at Fiapre, who was formerly a trader said he was incarcerated for a considerable time in military guardroom in Sunyani for allegedly conniving with the then Regional Secretary, the late Mr. A.K. Twumasi to collect pieces of wax print meant for Brong Ahafo Regional Development Corporation (BARDEC).

He explained that in 1982 whilst in Accra he and a colleague, called Joekuma met the late Mr. Twumasi who told them they could pre-finance and cart the wax print meant for BARDEC to Sunyani for a 10 per cent commission, because the Ministry of Trade could re-allocate them to another region as BARDEC had delayed in taking delivery.

We subsequently paid 200,000 cedis in May 1981 for the allocation and we were given receipts, which were issued in the name of BARDEC and the allocation was sent to the region and sold but we were not paid the 10 per cent margin as promised nor our principal amount, witness said.

Mr. Adjei-Barnie added that by the December 31st coup, they had not been paid the monies so he approached the late Twumasi who however escaped the next day.

We became frightened that the soldiers would molest us so we also fled to Accra where we heard a radio announcement that we were wanted to appear before the Brong Ahafo Regional Investigations committee in Sunyani.

Witness said they returned to Sunyani on a Friday and appeared before the panel that asked them about the wax print supplies and based on the evidence that Joekuma gave they were taken to the guardroom at the Liberation barracks until they had contacted the late Mr. Twumasi at Nsawam prisons.

He said they were kept in the guardroom for about a week before the late Mr. Twumasi's reply came in confirming what Joekuma had told the panel and were subsequently released but asked to be reporting. Joekuma fell sick so he was taken to hospital whilst I continued to report and one day as I reported the soldiers told me I wouldn't go back home and that begun of a further six months incarceration in the guardroom.

Mr. Adjei-Barnie said when Joekuma was later brought back to the guardroom they were not tried but sent into prison custody for another three months, as we were told we would be tried together with the late Mr. Twumasi before a tribunal for aiding and abetting the latter to collect the goods.

The tribunal discharged us in early June 1983 but the late Regional Secretary was give jail sentenced and when I went home I learnt that my father had died, he said.

He said the soldiers seized his Datsun saloon car on the orders of Lt Atuahene during the investigations and was later given to ASP Adjin, the prosecutor.

Whilst in custody, my mother later retrieved the vehicle but its condition was beyond repairs and no compensation has been paid to me up to date, he said and appealed to the Commission to recommend for the payment of some compensation to him in respect of the damaged vehicle.

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