An independent Inquiry has begun into the bloody events of October 3, 2006, in Victoria when the leader of the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) and other party officials were beaten up in front of the National Assembly building.
The Inquiry, led by Irish Judge Michael Reilly, is now probing into the events of the day after considering the situation regarding access to public media by political parties, the issue which led to the incidents.
This part of the Inquiry is focusing on the actions of the police, in particular the anti-riot Special Support Unit (SSU), in the incidents.
The Inquiry has questioned a number of the SSU officers involved but the officers have on several occasions told the inquiry they did not see or did not remember critical details of the incidents. None of the police officers involved have admitted seeing any of the SNP leaders being hit.
Police officers have on several occasions changed their testimony, making statements to the Inquiry which were different from statements they had made to investigative officers in preparing for the Inquiry.
SNP officials had last week appeared before the Inquiry to give their account of the events of October 3, 2006.
On that day, a group of SNP officials and supporters gathered in front of the National Assembly building to sign a petition against an amendment to the Radio and Telecommunications Act which would bar a political party or religious organization as well as bodies affiliated to them from obtaining a radio broadcasting licence.
The SSU intervened to break up the gathering, using tear-gas, rubber bullets and batons. SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan and another party official, Jean-François Ferrari, were beaten on the head with batons and both received several stitches for their wounds. Other party officials, including Members of the National Assembly, were also injured, along with several supporters.
SSU officers have told the Inquiry they were informed by their commanding officers from early in the morning of October 3, at around 7.00 am or 7.30 am, that there would be an illegal gathering by the SNP that day. Some said they were told then there would be a riot while others even said there was already a riot in progress.
The SSU officers were issued with full riot gear including shields, batons, tear-gas guns and canisters as well as firearms and ammunition. They were deployed first to the Central Police Station to await further instructions and then to the National Assembly building.
When they went there, SSU officers entered the building through a side door, crossed the entrance lobby and emerged through the front doors where the SNP had gathered. Their commanding officer on the scene addressed the gathering with a loud-hailer, telling them they were taking part in an illegal assembly and that they were to disperse.
But almost at the same time, Mr. Ramkalawan and Mr. Ferrari were dragged inside the building and beaten on the head. The Inquiry has established that they emerged from the building by the same door that the SSU had entered only one minute and 23 seconds after the officer had shouted through the loud-hailer.
The SSU officers questioned have said they did not see who dragged Mr. Ramkalawan or Mr. Ferrari inside or who hit them. One however said he was told by his superior officer to take Mr. Ferrari inside but let him go because he had received a cut on the arm, supposedly from a dagger. He told the court he had took no further part in the operation because of the wound but was shown a video in which he was seen walking around briskly later on with a loud-hailer and with no apparent sign of injury.
Police officers had spent all day following the events to film and take pictures. One officer submitted a video purporting to be of the events but later admitted that a part of the video, which he had repeatedly said was of the day, had been filmed one week later. Another said he had taken pictures all day but submitted only 19 pictures to the inquiry.
The Deputy Head of the Special Branch of the police told the Inquiry the only role of the Special Branch was to monitor the activities of political parties. He said the Special Branch was the eyes and ears of the Government. He said he collected information and gave it to his superior officer but did not know how the information was stored or used later.
Judge Reilly has had to repeat questions to the SSU officers several times over as witnesses did not answer the question or replied vaguely. He has repeatedly exhorted the SSU officers to tell the truth and to cooperate with the Inquiry. He has also repeatedly read to the witnesses statements from other officers, including their commanders, which contradicted their testimony before the Inquiry.
President James Michel appointed the independent Inquiry under international pressure after initially endorsing the actions of the police in dealing with the incidents. The Inquiry is being conducted by an Irish team which includes, besides the presiding officer, Judge Micheal Reilly, an assistant presiding officer, a lawyer and a team of three investigative officers led by a retired superintendent of the Irish police.