Gambian Brutalised in Sweden

By Okoth Osewe in Stockholm, Daily Observer (Banjul), 16 November 2000

A row has erupted between the Swedish police and Seidou Conteh, a 38 year-old Gambian national who was beaten unconscious by a Swedish guard on September 28 at Tre Rammare, a pub in Central Stockholm. Seidou narrated how he was brutally attacked on the head by a violent security guard as he left the pub after picking up his jacket.

The heavy blow caused Seidou to collapse on the floor from where he was picked up by an ambulance team that rushed him to Karolinska hospital for urgent treatment.

When he was brought to the hospital¹s Emergency wing, the Gambian could not breathe, forcing Doctors to put him on a respirator. He was then wheeled into the theatre for immediate surgery. X-ray pictures revealed that Seidou had suffered severe internal bleeding in the head and blood had to be drained from his brain to save his life.

I thought I was going to die, said Seidou as he lay on his hospital bed with a huge bandage on his head. Barely a week after he was operated on, the hospital staff tried to throw him out, arguing that Seidou had no insurance to settle the hospital bill since he has no Permanent Residence Permit (PUT) in Sweden.

When it became clear that Seidou would be chucked out of the hospital, Juan Fonseka, the Chairman of Discrimination Bureau, stormed the hospital and demanded that Doctors write down that Seidou was healthy enough to be discharged. The hospital backed down and Seidou was allowed to stay for another week.

The problem now is that the police want Seidou to identify the guard who beat him through a line-up of passport photographs, a move which Seidou has opposed, saying that he needs a live parade. I became unconscious immediately after I was beaten and I have not yet recovered my memory properly. I need time and a live parade to help me identify the guard, he said.

Bubacarr Sabally, the leading eye witness in the case who phoned police after the attack, has also refused to identify the suspect through pictures.

The police wants me to identify the wrong picture so that they can dismiss the case, he told a meeting that had been organised by the African Human Rights Initiative in Sweden (AHRIS) to discuss the case.

AHRIS is planning a meeting with the Minister of Justice to protest against the way the police is handling the case and the increasing inaction on the part of the government in cases where Africans have come under brutal attack. The first police to arrive at the scene refused to record statements from witnesses who were on Seidou's side, insisting that one witness was enough. Anders Carlsson, a witness who phoned the ambulance as Seidou lay unconscoius on the floor, was also prevented from narrating to police what he saw. Another witness has since contacted police and gave evidence in Seidou¹s favour after he was blocked from doing so at the scene of crime.

Seidou said he is worried that the police keep on asking him when he is leaving Sweden. My visa is expiring on December 1 and it looks like the police are interested in throwing me out of the country to do away with the case, he said.

So far, the Gambian has not been provided with any State lawyer and he is unable to deal with several legal questions that have arisen in the case.

Guards where Seidou was attacked have suggested that he may have been beaten by a guest at the pub.

Anti-racist and Human Rights Organisations are interpreting the way the case is being handled by police as yet another example of growing racism and discrimination of immigrants (especially Africans) within government institutions in Sweden.

Adonis Heichemy, a 26-year-old Gambian is currently on a wheel chair after he was brutalised by two security guards in January this year in the underground station of Västra Skogen. Adonis was attacked because he did not have a train ticket. During the attack, Adonis¹ neck was broken, forcing Doctors to operate on him to save his life. He is currently disabled.

When the case came up in court, it was dismissed by the Judge who said Adonis broke his own neck when he fell down.