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Help me save these boys
David Murray - June 17, 2007 1

Help me save this boy
FREE: George Forbes (left) and two of his co-accused in talks with UN representatives.
A BRISBANE man freed from a Sudanese prison is lobbying for the release of four boys he met in the jail, including one charged with the bee-sting death of girl.

George Forbes says he fears for the safety of the boys, between 9and 14 years old, who are locked up with violent offenders and live in appalling conditions.

"It's a complete violation of all world human rights agreements," Mr Forbes told The Sunday Mail.

Mr Forbes took down the names and reasons for imprisonment for the four boys, hoping to help secure their release.

"The nine-year-old had thrown stones at a beehive in a tree. Being a little lad he got what he wanted and the bees got angry and swarmed," Mr Forbes said.

"Unfortunately they went and stung a little five-year-old girl to death and the magistrate charged him with murder."

A 12-year-old boy was jailed for two years for stealing food, a 14-year-old boy had stolen a bicycle and another 14-year-old boy crashed a borrowed motorbike.

"There I was thinking I had problems but when it's a little kid (in jail) that is a hideous problem," he said.

"I reported it to the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees as well as the United Nations International Children's Fund.

"Unfortunately nothing was done. I think there is such a fear factor your average individual is not going to risk it."

Mr Forbes, 45, and three colleagues from Trax International constructions spent a hellish three months in prison after being arrested over the death of a Ukranian flight engineer at Rumbek in southern Sudan in March.

The men were convicted of murder despite a post-mortem examination finding the victim had hanged himself.

Judges from the region's Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and released Mr Forbes and his colleagues from prison this month.

Speaking from a Nairobi, Kenya, hospital where he was having a series of medical tests on Wednesday, Mr Forbes described the prison conditions as "brutal".

"I saw one man die who I had tried to help," he said.

"I looked at him and he was in really bad shape. He deteriorated extremely fast, in only a couple of days. I gave him some very strong antibiotics but he was too far gone by then.

"There was also a female prisoner in solitary confinement on the other side (of the prison) who died in that time as well. For the first few nights we heard this woman screaming all night then eventually she died.

"There is also the summary whipping of some prisoners who have a quota of lashes each day as part of their punishment."

The Sunday Mail has previously reported that the jail's 400 prisoners were kept in overcrowded cells at night, sleeping side by side on the bare floor. Many cells had no roofs and flooded when storms regularly swept through the area.

Inmates were allowed into a dusty square courtyard with a solitary tree during the day.

"It's no place for children. These people know it but they just don't seem to care," Mr Forbes said.

Despite his ordeal and the volatile nature of the region, Mr Forbes revealed he had no plans to leave. His company has offered him the CEO's position and he will spend more time working in Sudan.

When in Brisbane he had lived in the bayside suburb of Wynnum and his local pub was the Manly Hotel.

He plans a visit to Australia as soon as he gets the all-clear from doctors.

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