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Pastor António Monteiro, shown here during a church service in 2009, is in prison in Lomé, Togo. After nearly 500 days, he has still not had a trial. There is no evidence against him. [photo courtesy Monteiro family]
July 18, 2013 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | ANN staff |
Pastor António Monteiro and fellow church members have been in prison for nearly 500 days based solely on the accusation of one man. But according to a court-ordered psychiatric exam, that man, Kpatcha Simliya, would later recant his accusation, saying he was beaten by police and forced to give names of people he supposedly knew were co-conspirators in a blood trafficking network.
That has left Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders, lawyers and diplomats wondering why Monteiro and other Adventists accused of running a purported trafficking ring are still being held in prison without a trial.
Article 15 of the Togolese Constitution states, “No person shall be arbitrarily detained or confined. Anyone detained without legal basis shall have the right to seek judicial intervention. The appropriate judicial authority shall immediately render an opinion regarding the legality and/or regularity of the confinement.”
Last month, an editorial in the local newspaper, La Symphonie, called for a “fair and equitable process” of detainees. “Dozens of people accused in these different cases rot in jails for a long time,” the editorial stated.
Five people are being arbitrarily detained in connection with the case, according to church leaders: Monteiro, who since 2009 has served as a department director at the Adventist Church’s Sahel Union Mission; church member Bruno Amah, an employee of Togo Cellulaire; church member Beteynam Raphael Kpiki Sama; Simliya; and Idrissou Moumouni, a Muslim, who voluntarily went to police testifying that Simliya was a liar.
The arrests and detentions unfolded following a string of homicides in September of 2011.
Depending on different newspaper and police accounts, more than a dozen bodies of women between the ages of 12 and 36 had been found in the northern Lomé suburb of Agoué. The bodies had stab wounds and some sexual organs had been removed. Blood and animal parts are often used in ceremonies of Voodoo, which is widely practiced in Togo.
When no arrests were made, the public demanded justice for the killings, church leaders said.
Simliya was later shown on television surrounded by police guards, telling the story of the series of murders he said that he organized and naming accomplices who collected blood and organs. But much of the story proved unlikely, including the number of victims and the methods used, according to Simliya’s medical examiner.
“Any informed and reasonable man would have doubts regarding his incredible outpouring or the feasibility of his crimes or supposed crimes,” a September 9, 2012, court-ordered medical exam stated.
Simliya’s original testimony raised many questions. The judge overseeing Monteiro’s case requested that a psychiatric exam of Simliya be given by Dr. Tchangai Tchatcha. In his report, Tchatcha described Simliya’s personality as “unbalanced” or “psychopathic,” and having “tendencies towards pathological lying.”
Of Simliya’s testimony, Tchatcha stated in his written medical evaluation, “The sequence of ideas appeared to be illogical and he often changed his statement and had even made conflicting statements.”
“He is manipulative and above all a liar, all those we have met confirmed this opinion,” Dr. Tchatcha wrote.
Guy Roger, president of the Sahel Union Mission said of Simliya: “He has widely used his ‘brotherly status’ in order to obtain help from the Seventh-day Adventist communities in the area he frequented according to his needs.”
Simliya was born in 1984 in Kara, according to police reports. Dr. Tchatcha said Simliya’s personality was the result of a “troubled childhood.” The identity of his father was repeatedly questioned by his mother who sent him “around living with different relatives as if he was a package,” Tchatcha wrote.
Tchatcha also stated that Simliya was arrested in the third grade for petty theft, and he was once beaten until he was “almost dead,” accused of being demon possessed.
He spent four years in prison, from 2006 to 2010, serving time for a rape conviction.
As late as March of last year, police documented Simliya trying to lure young female vendors into the woods with the unlikely promise that someone was waiting to buy all of their remaining merchandise.
Upon his release from prison on June 25 of 2010, two names appear as his sponsors who wanted to help him – Bruno Amah and Pastor Essossinam Komlan Sagao.
According to a March 22, 2012, police report, Simliya had asked Sagao for help in obtaining a job at the port. Sagao said he didn’t know of any such jobs, but offered him work washing cars. Simliya’s work was poor, and he quit after a week, Sagao said, according to the report.
Simliya claims to have been abused by police while in custody and asked for names of people he knew in Lomé. He proffered several names of those who had recently tried to help him, including Monteiro, Amah and Sagao.
But after telling police the names of the men, Simliya later told Tchatcha in an interview in the prison infirmary, “I went to see the judge to confess that I had lied and he told me that if I would have changed my statements, I would have gotten a life sentence,” according to Tchatcha’s medical evaluation.
A police investigator once asked Montiero why he would associate with someone like Simliya.
According to a March 22, 2012, police report, Quartermaster Chief Marshal Gaté N’Zonou asked, “Why do you deal with such a man when your age and social level cannot be compared? Why do you deal with a wretched [person]?”
“This is my profile, a person who considers everybody without other distinctions,” Monteiro replied. “It is in order to show love toward that person and to help that person get away from sin.”