Soldier freed after two-month detention

- dishonourably discharged after court-martial

Approximately one month after allegations surfaced that he was being mistreated by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Private Akeem Charles was yesterday dishonourably discharged from the army.

Charles was detained by the army after he went Absent Without Leave (AWOL).

Stabroek News was told late last evening that Charles had been court-martialed and that after about 60 days in confinement, he had finally been discharged. Calls to the man’s relatives confirmed this information.

This decision comes in the wake of weeks of unresponsiveness on the part of the GDF, which seemed unwilling from the start to divulge any information when allegations were initially made.

It had been reported that Charles went AWOL to solicit assistance for a back injury he had sustained on an army course, after the GDF said it lacked the requisite funds to tend to his injury. He subsequently turned himself in when his AWOL status was published.

Stabroek News understands that on Thursday December, 20, while being escorted to his cell by two MPs, Charles dove into a nearby drain to avoid going back to his cell, since the conditions that obtained there became 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.

A 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.

It took the GDF seven days before it addressed the allegations, which had been published in this newspaper, and even then it did not and still has not specified the duration of Charles’ detainment. The GDF did admit to having Charles in custody, although it denied that he was being treated inhumanely, and it promised to investigate the claims of abuse that were also made.

No reports have been made as to the findings of this investigation.
On January 3, GDF Chief-of-Staff Commodore Gary Best had said that Charles had been removed from his cell, but was still in the custody of the force awaiting his court-martial.

Opposition Leader Brigadier (retired) David Granger had told Stabroek News that the length of time that Charles had reportedly been held for was inordinate, while explaining that once held, ranks accused of the crime in question should be given a trial within 24 hours.

According to Granger, the inhumane treatment allegedly being meted out to Charles would definitely not be in accordance with army regulations.
He made it clear that he was not sure if the allegations were true, but stated that if things were as reported then they constituted a breach of the rules concerning the incarceration of persons under close arrest, and he suggested an immediate inquiry into the matter and correct the situation if it is found to be true.

Granger explained that once a rank would have been deemed as having gone AWOL, the requisite punishment to be applied would vary from a fine to dismissal, depending on if the person was absent for more than 21 days.

Granger further said that even if the individual was charged with desertion, the punishment should not be as described in the report. He added that there was no regulation which prescribed that a person accused of being absent or a deserter should be subjected to the kind of punishment allegedly meted out to Charles.

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