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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK


'Race case' Briton freed from jail

Ms Seisay's conviction has been branded "institutionally racist"

A British mother jailed in Belgium for attempting to smuggle an illegal immigrant has been freed after her conviction was overturned by a court of appeal.

Bridget Seisay, 30, from Southwark, south London, was freed by the Palais de Justice in Brussels, after serving seven months in jail.

The mother of a two-year-old son was held without remand in November and jailed for three years in April, after a woman with whom she was travelling was found to have false documents.

[ image: Ms Seisay's partner, Habib Tejan, and son, Habib junior, await her return]
Ms Seisay's partner, Habib Tejan, and son, Habib junior, await her return
But on Wednesday appeal judges said that no proper investigation had been carried out, and that the authorities had failed to produce any substantial evidence.

Ms Seisay will be released from prison on Wednesday afternoon and will then return to London.

Ms Seisay's lawyers, who had called the case a "gross miscarriage of justice", are now likely to claim compensation on grounds of wrongful imprisonment.

Weekend break in Germany

Ms Seisay, a cashier who has a two-year-old son, was arrested after travelling to Bonn in November to stay with a relative, Umaru Wurie, who was Sierra Leone's ambassador to Germany.

He asked her to accompany another woman back to London.

But the pair were stopped by immigration officials at the Eurostar terminal in Brussels and her travelling companion was found to be using a false passport.

Her companion was later given political asylum in Belgium but Ms Seisay was found guilty of "trafficking in human beings", despite written testimony from Mr Wurie.

The Belgian Commission for Racial Equality is investigating Ms Seisay's claims that the court disbelieved her because she was black.

'Utterly outrageous case'

Ms Seisay's lawyer Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, said the original trial was "institutionally racist".

He said: "In my experience, which covers many jurisdictions across the world, I've never seen a case go this way with non-existent evidence against the defendant and so much positive evidence on her behalf.

"If Bridget had been white, or if the ambassador had been white, she would have been released months ago. This is an utterly outrageous case."

Back in the UK Ms Seisay's partner, Habib Tejan, will welcome the decision.

He says he has lost his job and three stone in weight through stress and the couple's son, also called Habib, has suffered behavioural problems as a result of his mother's absence.

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