UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 000331
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KPAO XY GV
SUBJECT: FAMILY PAYS TO FREE TORTURED JOURNALIST
REF: CONAKRY 00000309
Â¶1. Summary: On June 8 the PAO and press assistant met with Moise
Sidibe, the Guinean journalist who was detained and tortured for
more than a week by the CNDD (Reftel). Sidibe described the events
of the night of May 27 when he, his son and brother were arrested by
a unit of the Ministry of Special Services, Anti-Drug and Grand
Banditry, and held in custody at Camp Alpha Yaya. Sidibe's family
paid 4 million GNF ($800) for his and his brother's release. End
Â¶2. According to Sidibe, the gendarmes entered his neighborhood and
began arresting people the night of May 27-28. He said they
particularly targeted foreigners and ex-pats, such as Lebanese and
Pakistanis. Sidibe himself is Vietnamese by birth. (His adoptive
Guinean father was in the French army during the French-Indochina
war in the 1950s and brought Sidibe and his mother back to Guinea in
Â¶3. According to Sidibe, the gendarmes initially claimed that those
that were being rounded up were suspected of drug-dealing. Sidibe
firmly denies that he had anything to do with the drug trade and
stated that the gendarmes planted evidence of drugs at the
motel-bar, owned by his wife, where he was arrested. He said that
after being taken into custody the gendarmes immediately began
demanding money from him and the other detainees in exchange for
their release. He said that some of the other detainees paid large
sums of money in order to secure their freedom.
Â¶4. Sidibe claims that the gendarmes holding him initially demanded
250 million GNF from him (about $50,000). Sidibe refused to pay.
The captors then lowered their demand to 50 million GNF. He said
that the next day they began beating him with strips made from car
tires as well as a metal pipe. They shaved off part of his hair.
Sidibe said that the gendarmes never spoke about the critical
articles that he wrote in his newspaper, L'Independant. He told the
gendarmes that he was a journalist but they did not believe him.
Â¶5. As gendarmes submitted Sidibe to taunts and abuse, the U.S.
Embassy increased its efforts to press the government to either free
him from detention or formally bring charges against him. On June
4, PAO met with the president of the Conseil National de la
Communication, Jean Raymond Soumah, to express concern for Sidibe.
Soumah said that he and the Minister of Information and Culture,
Justin Morel Junior, met with a group of journalists who spoke to
them about Sidibe's situation. The two promised to do what they
Â¶6. Soumah spoke to the editor of l'Independant in the PAO's
presence to find out Sidibe's status and also spoke to one of
Sidibe's close friends who was in contact with Sidibe. Soumah
obtained the cell phone number of the cell mate of Sidibe. PAO
managed to speak to Sidibe for a few seconds, just long enough to
confirm that he had been beaten and tortured. Sidibe later told PAO
that phones were contraband but the phone had been smuggled in by a
Â¶7. The next day, June 5, Sidibe had still not been released. PAO
met with the Minister of Information and Culture to again express
the concerns of the Embassy. The Minister had to rush to a meeting
with the Prime Minister but promised to discuss the matter with the
Prime Minister and the Minsiter of Defense. He said if Sidibe still
were not released he would speak directly with the president of the
CNDD, Dadis Camara. Later that day the Embassy issued a press
statement expressing deep concern over the treatment of Sidibe.
Sidibe was released two hours later. Sidibe said that his family
paid approximately 4 million GNF ($800) to release him and his
brother. Sidibe's son had been released earlier in the week.
Â¶8. Sidibe described the detention facility at Camp Alpha Yaya as
being extremely crowded. He said that the ex-pats paid several
million GNF for their release as did some of the other prisoners.
He also noted that he spoke with the body guards of two Generals
from the Conte regime, Diara Camara and Ali Daffe, and was told the
Generals were being held on the second floor. Sidibe, who describes
himself as a teacher as well as a journalist, also said the facility
was filled to overflowing with students. They were accused of
throwing rocks at the vehicles of the CNDD during a demonstration in
the Bambeto area. Sidibe said that the only condition for their
release was the payment of cash by their families to their captors.
Â¶9. Comment: It is not clear whether Sidibe's outspoken articles
criticizing the government had anything to do with his arrest. It
appears more probable that his arrest and detentions were the result
of an effort by the CNDD to shake people down in his neighborhood.
As Sidibe's family paid for his release we may never know whether or
not the Embassy's efforts would have been effective on their own.
However, it is clear that the Guinean government was aware at the
highest levels of the Embassy's concern. Sidibe himself said that
CONAKRY 00000331 002 OF 002
he was greatly encouraged when he heard that the Embassy was making
inquiries on his behalf. As long as families continue to pay large
sums of money for their detained loved ones, these arrests will
continue to provide a steady stream of income. It is unclear
whether these revenues are going into government coffers or private
pockets, or both. End comment.