Relatives of trio killed in BASS shooting stage protest
Dispute police version of events

By Jeune Bailey Van-Keric
Stabroek News
August 17, 2001

Relatives of Azad Bacchus, his son and nephew, who were killed by members of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) during the early hours of Tuesday morning, staged a protest yesterday following the revelation in the post-mortem reports that they had died of gunshot wounds.

They have issued a call to President Bharrat Jagdeo to visit the area to hear their grievances.

The protest, which commenced at 8:30 am in the vicinity of the home which Azad Bacchus shared with his mother, reputed wife and children, moved to the Springlands Police Station, then to BASS Headquarters, Corriverton, before returning to the station.

The protesters, numbering about 200, braved the mid-morning sun, chanting: "We need justice." "We need our children." "Slow fire!" as they marched along the main thoroughfare of the Corentyne Coast. They also carried placards on which were written: "Innocent blood lost", "Our sons did no wrong," "Cold-blooded killings," "We will not rest until we get our children back," and "Immediate dismissal for BASS officials" among other slogans.

Spokesman for the group John Mangal indicated to this newspaper, that schoolchildren and religious bodies, inclusive of the Muslims, would join the peaceful protest, which would continue on a daily basis, until justice was served. Shaazah Bacchus, 15, the fourth child of the high seas pirate, attended a private business school, and was expected to write CXC examinations next year.

Other demonstrators voiced their disapproval over the killings, particularly of the youths, whom they said had lived exemplary lives. Fadil Ally, 18, had lost his father three months ago in a road accident, and had assumed the role of provider to his mother Farida Ally, and his three siblings.

Sabita Shivgobin called Shoba Bacchus, reputed wife of Azad Bacchus told Stabroek News that she and other family members had been able to see the three bodies after the post-mortem examinations. She said that they had taken extensive photographs of the bodies. The funerals of the three which were to have been held yesterday did not take place.

According to her, Azad Bacchus' left upper torso was riddled with bullet wounds. She was unable to specify how many there were, saying "they were too numerous." She said that his scalp was dented, an indication that he was hit by a blunt instrument. She also saw lacerations on his right foot and left hand.

Fazila Khan, the legal wife of Azad Bacchus and mother of Shazzah Bacchus, revealed that there was a bullet entry wound on her son's right temple, which exited at the back of the neck. His right arm was broken and there was evidence of bloodshots (congealed blood) over the entire body, she said.

Farida Ally, mother of Fadil Ally, said that there was a bullet wound on the top of her son's head, which made its exit through the neck. She said that there were other wounds on his right hip, under his left arm, and on his abdomen.

The family continues to disclaim the police's version of the incident, which stated that there was an exchange of gunfire in the vicinity of Kim Jong Il Street, where Azad Bacchus had lived and that the three were subsequently found dead in Azad Bacchus' mini-bus. They said they had witnessed Azad Bacchus and the two boys being taken away by BASS officers and had assumed that they were being taken to the police station to be arrested.

Residents in the area have voiced their concern at the manner in which the youths were killed, as from the gunshot wounds, they suspect that the youths were on their knees.

Meanwhile, a resident of the area, who requested anonymity, for fear of harassment by law enforcement officers, related hearing several gunshots at the Scottsburg foreshore at about 0245 hrs on Tuesday. The source also said that a familiar vehicle was noticed along the entrance to the sea coast.

The Upper Corentyne resident believed that Azad Bacchus and the teenagers were taken to the Scottsburg foreshore, which is the landing for many smugglers, where they were shot. The clothing on their dead bodies was wet as they lay in the morgue on Tuesday. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and the PNC REFORM have condemned the killings and called for Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj to launch a probe into them.