AWOL soldier no longer being kept in cell

-Best

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Commodore Gary Best said yesterday that Akeem Charles, the Private who was allegedly abused during a prolonged detention after going Absent Without Leave (AWOL), is no longer being held in a cell.

However, in a brief comment, Best said that Charles, 21, has not been released as he is currently awaiting a court martial.

Stabroek News had reported that Charles was being subjected to beatings and inhumane conditions in a Camp Ayanganna cell, where he had been held for more than 30 days. The army has since announced an investigation into the allegations.

Stabroek News understands after the allegations of Charles being abused were made public, efforts were made by the GDF to improve the conditions under which detained ranks were being held, and that Charles, had been released on Christmas to spend the day with his family. He was however, expected to return to Base Camp Ayanganna at the end of the day where he currently awaits his court martial.

According to a source in the GDF, Charles, who went AWOL to solicit assistance for a back injury he had sustained on a course after the army said it lacked the requisite funds to help him, had turned himself in when his information was published.

Stabroek News understands that on Thursday, December 20th, while being escorted to his cell by military police, Charles dove into a nearby drain to avoid being returned to his cell since the conditions were too much for him to bear. It is alleged that a senior soldier and another then proceeded to deal Charles several blows about his body for having done this.

The source stated that after being dealt multiple blows about the body, Charles was thrown back into his cell, naked, after which his cell was soaked with water. It is alleged that the young man’s cell was, from that point, doused with water every half hour, presumably to make him as uncomfortable as possible.

After several days of not so much as a response to the allegations, the GDF released a statement last Friday, announcing that it was probing allegations and assuring that any rank found culpable of inflicting any act of violence against Private Charles will be subject to disciplinary procedures.

The GDF emphasised that it “does not condone any act/s of violence meted out to its ranks,” whether they are serving or have breach their service by being AWOL.

It stated that based on    preliminary investigations, Charles was being detained in keeping with GDF policy since he had been AWOL and he was being processed through routine procedures to be court-martialed. He began exhibiting “abnormal behavior” to protest to his detention, it added, citing the instance of him throwing himself into the drain at Base Camp Ayanganna, while adding that he had to be removed there from in order to ensure his safety. No order was given for his cell to be soaked as was reported, the army said.

The release, however, failed to address allegations that Charles had spent more than the stipulated time in detention awaiting his court martial.

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