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Justice campaign for jailed pilot
AN international human rights group has launched a campaign for justice for a young pilot imprisoned in the Central African Republic over the killings of 13 people.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has written to the country’s president François Bozizé, urging him to review the case of David Simpson, of Gillamoor, on the North York Moors, after HRW investigators found evidence to show the 24-year-old’s involvement in the ritualistic massacre of the illegal gold miners was unlikely.
Mr Simpson has been in a jail in the country’s capital, Bangui, since April, after informing police he had found numerous bodies in a wilderness area while working for hunting firm Central African Wildlife Adventures.
After being held for several weeks without charge, the former pupil of Lady Lumley’s School, in Pickering, and 12 co-workers were declared formal suspects over the murders, an offence which can carry the death penalty in the country.
HRW said it had studied whether Mr Simpson, the firm’s general manager, had ordered the firm’s guards, known as The Archers, to kill the men to stop illegal gold mining activities on the firm’s 20,000sq km concession following rising tensions.
Locals had also alleged Mr Simpson gave the illegal gold miners food with magic powder in it, before beating them to death with a stick.
After interviewing people who discovered the bodies, the victims’ family members, the firm’s employees, Central African army soldiers, local authorities, judicial officials and policemen, HRW has concluded the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) probably perpetrated the killings.
Daniel Bekele, director of HRW’s Africa division, said rebels, who have been linked to 2,600 civilian killings since 2008, were in the Ngunguinza gold mine area in the weeks before and after the massacre.
He said: “The victims were found lying face down on the ground, some had their hands tied, and nearly all appeared to have been beaten to death with large pieces of wood, particularly by blows to the head.”
“Over more than 15 years of research on the LRA, HRW has documented many similar massacres in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and northern Uganda. For example, in massacres in 2008 and 2009 in northern Congo, LRA combatants killed their victims in precisely the same manner.”
Mr Bekele said some members of the local population had strong views the hunting firm’s managers were responsible for the killings, but there was no compelling evidence to back up the theory.
However, Mr Bekele said as there are no known witnesses to the massacre it was impossible for his investigators to determine with certainty the perpetrators were LRA combatants, and that if Mr Simpson’s case moved to trial, the president should ensure it was “credible, fair, and follows international standards”.