The trial of a Ugandan citizen, Shirat Nelwadda accused of drug trafficking, turned sour on Friday, March 28, when she tearfully claimed that she was molested and stripped half naked by three male security officers at the Robert International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County.
Defendant Nelwadda is accused of smuggling 1.2 kilograms of heroin valued at US$30,000 through the RIA.
She denied the allegation at Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, where she testified as defense first witness on Friday.
In her testimony, Nelwadda alleged the officers threaten to post her naked photo on Facebook, if she refused to cooperate with them.
“I was forced to allow myself to be stripped half-naked for the men to search me, because they claimed they were performing their duty as officers assigned at the Airport,” defense witness further alleged.
Explaining about her arrest, the defense witness claimed when she arrived at the Airport from Uganda, she was searched with her suitcase by the men on two separate occasions and asked to leave the terminal.
“When I was about to leave the terminal, the men called me back and said they were not satisfied with me and wanted to search me and my suitcase again,” she claimed.
“This time I and my luggage were separated. I was taken into an isolated room leaving my luggage with them.”
“It was in the room that I was stripped half naked and photograph by the men, who threatened to post it on face book,” adding “I have never been search at any airport by male officers. This is strange; I was ill-treated and molested by the men.”
After she returned from the room it was when she was told by the officers that they discovered the parcel containing the drug in her luggage.
“I was searched twice and they did not find anything like drug in the suitcase. It was the third time and in my absence they accused me of travelling with heroin.”
“I’m not a drug dealer and I have never seen it in my life. I only came to Liberia based on an invitation from my boyfriend,” the defense witness said.
Narrating on prosecution allegation that she attempted to escape the country, while on bail, Nelwadda alleged “at no time did I try to secretly leave the country.”
She, however, explained after she was arrested and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), she was released by the Court and her traveling documents including luggage and passport returned to her.
“They did not tell me I should not leave the country or released on bond. I thought that I was released.”
She alleged, when she was released she decided to rent a hotel, where she would be residing, until she can get in contact with her family in Uganda to send her air ticket.
After her family sent the money, Nelwadda claimed, it was when she went to RIA to leave the country.
Unfortunately, upon arrival at the RIA, the defense witness said, she was arrested by the DEA.
They asked how I managed to be released; she replied “I told them that it was the court that freed me from prison and gave me back my travelling documents. I can’t break jail.”
“I even gave my phone for them to contact the court or security officers [to ask] how I managed to get out of jail,” she added.
She claimed she was denied food for three days while at the headquarters of the DEA.
“I can’t eat rice. I can only eat fruit and vegetables, but the DEA officers for six days kept me hungry, while I was detained at their office.”