Amnesty International concerned with safety of ex-deputy minister Momodou Sajo Jallow held incommunicado

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Amnesty International has expressed concern about the safety of Momodou Sajo Jallow, an ex-deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia who has been incommunicado for more than two months at the Notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
In a press release issued on Thursday, Amnesty International said:

 

Mamadou Sajo Jallow, an ex-deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has been held incommunicado for more than two months at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) without access to his family or a lawyer. He remains in detention despite a court granting him bail.

 

Mamadou Sajo Jallow was dismissed as deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on 1 September. The following morning on 2 September, he was picked up by men in plain clothes from his residence in Kerr Serign in Banjul. The men are believed to be NIA agents. Despite several attempts, his family and lawyer have not been able to contact or visit him even though they have unofficial information that he is being detained at the NIA headquarters. Mamadou Sajo Jallow has not been charged or brought before a court.

 

Mamadou Sajo Jallow’s lawyer filed an application at the High court of Banjul for his release from NIA custody on 28 September and also for him to be granted bail. Justice Otaba of the Special Criminal Division of the High Court in Banjul on 17 October granted bail to Mamadou Sajo Jallow in the sum of D200,000 (approximately $USD 4,587.16 ) with two sureties.

 

The sureties must be Gambians living in Gambia and they would be required to submit to the court title deeds of property equivalent to the bail amount. Another condition of the bail is for Mamadou Sajo Jallow to submit his travel documents to the Principal Registrar of the high court. This will be difficult since Mamadou Sajo Jallow’s travel documents were taken away by the men who arrested him. Mamadou Sajo Jallow’s house had been broken into by unknown men twice prior to his arrest. The latest break in was on 1 September when his laptop and some personal documents were taken.

 

Mamadou Sajo Jallow, was the Gambia Ambassador to the African Union (AU) from 2008 to 2015 and was appointed as deputy Foreign Affairs minister on 24 August. His wife, Jainaba Bah, is a vocal supporter of the main opposition party, United Democratic Party. Several individuals, including high-profile ministers, have been targeted and arrested for being seen to disagree with the President or policies of the government, or speaking to opposition media. Many have been detained for longer than the legally allowed period without being brought before a court. The constitution says that a person can only be held without charge for 72 hours.

 

Ousman Jammeh, the former deputy Minister of Agriculture, has been held without charge in incommunicado detention since 15 October 2015 when he was also removed from his post. His family are unable to have access to him at the prison and the authorities have given no reasons for his arrest.

 

Momodou Sowe, a Protocol Officer at State House, was released on bail on 21 January 2015 after more than two years in detention without charge after a Habeas Corpus application was filed by his lawyer. He was suspected of being an informant for Freedom Online newspaper, a US based Gambian online newspaper that publishes articles critical of the Gambian government. Freedom Online newspaper was blocked in Gambia in 2006.

 

In August 2014, the government passed the Criminal Code (amendment) Act which introduces the offence of “absconding state officials”, which could be used to target individuals who express dissent and flee the country. It is punishable by up to 500,000 Dalasi (approximately US$12,700) and five years in prison.

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