By Alhagie Jobe
Gambia’s opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Ousainou Darboe and eighteen other party members including the entire executive who were jailed for three years have finally been freed on Monday, December 5th, 2016.
The Gambia Court of Appeal granted the unconditional bail to Mr Darboe while the other nineteen other co-accused were granted light conditional bail of only relinquishing their National ID Card or Passport and a Gambian national to act as a surety.
The others are Kemeseng Jammeh, Femi Peters, Lamin Dibba, Lamin Jatta, Babucarr Camara, Fakebba Colley, Ismaila Ceesay, Momodou Fatty, Dodou Ceesay, Samba Kinteh, Mamudu Manneh, Nfamara Kuyateh, Fanta Darboe, Lamin Njie, Juguna Suso, Momodou LK Sanneh, Yaya Jammeh and Masanneh Lalo Jawla.
Mr Darboe and Co where on July 21st, 2016, convicted and sentenced to serve 3 years in prison consecutively by Nigerian machinery judge Justice Eunice O Dada.
They were all charged with seven counts of unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with traffic, holding a procession without a license, disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession and conspiracy.
After been freed on Monday, Mr Darboe and Co were escorted back to the Mile II prisons for administrative paper works and then finally released to reunite with their families.
Thousands of people lined up the streets from Denton Bridge to West Field to welcome Mr Darboe and Co. He was accorded a special welcome with a full convoy to his home.
It could be recalled that Mr Darboe and Co were arrested on April 16th after staging a peaceful protest demanding the release, dead or alive of the party youth leader Solo Sandeng.
Solo Sandeng was arrested in an earlier April 14 protest for demanding electoral reforms. He was allegedly tortured and died under state custody.
Mr Darboe and Co have since been charged, denied bail and remanded in the state central prison of Mile II. The international community had denounced the action of the government and called for their immediate release and for the government to launch and immediate investigation into the death of Solo Sandeng.
After for long been mute over the dead of Mr Sandeng in state custody, President Jammeh in an interview with the French Magazine Jeune Afrique in May 2016 confirmed the death of Mr Sandeng and rubbished the call for investigation.
Again, the state prosecutors also admitted in court on Thursday, June 16th that Ebrima Solo Sandeg ‘indeed’ died in state custody. The confirmation was contained in a reply by the State’s Director of Public Prosecution SH Barkun to a Habeas Corpus filed on behalf of the late Sandeng at the High Court for the Gambia government to produce him dead or alive.
During the three month trial, the accused persons where been represented by a team of defense lawyers led by Senior Counsel A.A.B. Gaye and included A.N Bensouda, Hawa Sisay-Sabally, SM Tambadou, B.S. Touray, OMM Njie, Mary A. Samba, Rachel Y. Mendy, Neneh Cham, Musa Bachilly, Abdoulie Sissoho, Yasin Senghore, Hajum Gaye, M. Touray, Sagar Jahateh, and Dayoh Small.