Police in Sierra Leone have been accused of inhumane treatment and torturing popular musician and rapper Alhaji Amadu Bah, better known as Boss LAJ.
The rapper has had his trademark dreadlocks shaved in police custody after being arrested more than a week ago over robbery allegations.
The police alleged he had “mercilessly” beaten up a pump attendant and snatched his bag at a petrol station where he had gone to buy fuel after saying that they had delayed him.
He was charged with four counts including robbery with violence and assault on Monday, and has not yet taken a plea. He was remanded at a maximum security prison and is set to reappear in court on Wednesday.
The case has generated controversy and condemnation amid allegations that he was injected with a liquid and his dreadlocks forcefully shaved while in police custody.
But police say that it is standard operating procedure to for all male suspects in custody to have their hair shaved.
Police chief Ambrose Sovula also alleged that the rapper had attempted to take his own life using his hair.
“That’s part of our SOP [standard operating procedure], for the hygiene of the place… he thought he’s being arrested unjustly, so he was using his hair to strangle himself.
“He had wanted to get himself killed… This is the truth and nothing but the truth,” he told the BBC Focus on Africa programme.
Bah’s lawyer Madieu Sesay said this was “propaganda”. He said he was being held in solitary confinement and they were being restricted from having a detailed discussion with him.
He told the BBC that he had last seen him on Tuesday last week – and “his appearance was completely different from the image I know of him”.
Michael Charles, the head of the country’s bar association says this is “unacceptable” and “unhuman” to have people’s rights violated.
Some Sierra Leoneans including artist Fantacee Wiz Kamara have shaved their hair in solidarity with with the detained rapper.