Sunday, April 29, 2012

British pilot imprisoned after discovering suspected Lord's Resistance Army massacre

 David Simpson poses with his light aircraft and a colleague. Mr Simpson has been held without charge for more than a month on suspicion of murder

8:00PM BST 29 Apr 2012
Investigators in the capital, Bangui, arrested David Simpson, 24, after six hours of interrogation during which they said they held him responsible for the deaths of 18 villagers in the remote south-east of the country.

"It's absolutely ridiculous, there is not a shred of evidence beyond hearsay, but still they've held me illegally, without charge, for more than a month," Mr Simpson told The Daily Telegraph on a mobile phone smuggled into his prison cell.

Mr Simpson, from Pickering, North Yorks, whose company offers wealthy clients the opportunity to shoot lion, Lord Derby's Eland and buffalo, among other species, was helping to clear a road through dense bush in the south of his firm's vast hunting concession on March 23 when his colleagues reported dead bodies found near a local gold mine.

He went to investigate, and says he found the bodies, all male, arranged as if they had been systematically killed. All of the dead men worked at the hand-panning mine, locals said.

"Six of them were all face down in a circle, their heads in the middle, four others were nearby and in total there were 18 dead guys there," he said.

"Some had been beaten to death with sticks, others had had boiling water poured on them first, then killed. It looked exactly like reports I've seen of other Lord's Resistance Army attacks. It was pretty awful."

The rebel army, headed by Joseph Kony, continues to terrorise civilian populations in the remote jungles of southern CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Kony was the subject of an internet video that went viral last month, viewed more than 90 million times.

"We called the military, they came the next day and basically freaked out," Mr Simpson said.

"They took a few photographs on their mobile phones and that was the sum total of their investigation. They left immediately."

Days later, Mr Simpson's aircraft was fired at as he took off from the nearest town, Bakouma. He says locals angered that they were not given jobs at his company, owned by a CAR-born Swedish hunter, were to blame.

"It's pretty clear that the killings had nothing to do with us, but it helped some of the guys in town follow their own agendas to blame us," he said.

Both Mr Simpson and his boss, Erik Mararv, went voluntarily to the capital to answer questions, and both were immediately arrested. Neither has been charged but both are still imprisoned, more than a month later.

Emelie Mararv, Mr Mararv's wife, confirmed that there had been no information about why the two men had been jailed, and no sense of when they would be released.

Firmin Findiro, the CAR Justic Minister, told The Daily Telegraph: “The government is not accusing the men of anything - the case will be brought before a magistrate next week who will see whether they actually had any role in the incident.”

“The men have legal representation and I have received both the British and Swedish consuls regarding the matter.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said they were providing consular assistance.

1 comment:

  1. Well, he was released from that hell-hole and returned to the UK.