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1/10/2015 - Sierra Leone - The Salesians obtain the release of a young man imprisoned for five years without sentence

(ANS - Freetown)– Going into the male prison in Sierra Leone is like going back in time and entering hell on earth, as the prisoners themselves say. The prisons are crammed with young men, alongside alleged criminals whose documents have been lost or simply forgotten. The Salesians working in prison have resolved to try to achieve freedom for them and they have already had their first success.

Going through the door of the Pademba Road Prison in Freetown is equivalent to going back in time and it feels like being part of an impossible film. The prison was designed for 300 inmates, but now it is home to almost 1,400. A chalkboard displays the category and the number of prisoners to be taken in each day.

A few months ago, in order to combat the injustices that occur, Brother Lothar Wagner, SDB,  Director of the Salesian NGO, Don Bosco Fambul, demanded the immediate release of 80 prisoners who are in custody in Freetown Central Prison for over three years, without being charged.

"We got this information from personal interviews with the detainees, as we passed from one cell to another, since we work daily in the prison. And we went further. We checked the prison register to verify their requests and their claim that they had been in prison for over three years," said Bro. Lothar.

Now, thanks to the Salesian, the first of these prisoners has been set free. His name is Musa Brima and he says he was in prison for "five years, ten months and ten days". He was accused of a fraud he did not commit and has seen the judge only once, for a declaration of guilt or innocence, but never received a conviction.

"I remember well my time in prison, because when you live through a sad reality you count every day, hoping this terrible nightmare will end."

His case had been simply forgotten, until it was taken up by the Salesians. When it was brought back to court, the judge told him he was free and could go home. "It was wonderful to be able to go home free and unhindered, after all this time, and hug my wife and my three children."

Brima today thanked the Salesians and “my father Don Bosco” for being free. Even though things are not easy now, after five years without freedom, he says with enthusiasm, "This is the best gift for the Year of Mercy which is about to start."

Further information on Salesian work for prisoners is available on the website of Misiones Salesianas, the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid.

Published 01/10/2015

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