Twenty-two peaceful protesters, militants and supporters of the Gambia’s opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) detained in the Janjangbureh prison have been unconditionally released on Thursday, June 30, The Fatu Network has confirmed.
These opposition militants and supporters are among 39 people arrested from two different locations since May 9 between West field and Kairaba Avenue by PIU officers while protesting in support of their detained comrades and party leader. They were later moved to Janjangbureh prison where they were held incommunicado for fifty one days.
It is not clear why the government decided to implement such a selective method of releasing detainees as a total of 12 people are still left behind in the prison. Those still held in Jangjangbureh are Modou Sarr, Jerreh Fatty, Solo Koromah, Bakary Marong, Alkali Sanneh, Lamin Sarjo, Kemo Touray, Alhagie Saidykhan, Lamin Dampha, Sheriff Suno, Tombong Njie and Muhammed Singhateh.
Earlier in May, out of these 39 people arrested on May 9th, six (6) of them all of whom were women were released on bail by the Kanifing Magistrate Court. They are Isatou Saidy, Sukai Dahaba, Kaddy Samateh, Fatoumata Sarr, Amie Touray and Lele Bojang. These women were separately detained at the Kanifing Police Intervention Unit; among them was a mother of a one month old baby named Aisha Fatty, who was also under detention with her mother.
They were charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, holding procession without a permit and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession. The Kanifing Magistrate Court granted them bail in the sum of D20, 000 with a Gambian surety each, who swore to an affidavit of means, deposited to the court, their national identification cards and addresses and particulars.
Consequently, the remaining 33 detainees were transported to Janjangbureh prison and have since not been charged, produced before a court of law or allowed access to family members or even their lawyers. The remaining 12 are now expected to appear before Justice Ottaba on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
It could be recalled that since April 14, the political tension in The Gambia had risen following the arrest of a dozen opposition members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who were merely protesting in demand for justice and electoral reforms. They were rounded up by police and one of them named Solo Sandeng was reportedly tortured to death in state custody while others suffered severe pains and still under critical conditions.
The death of Sandeng led to another peaceful protest on April 16, led by the leader of the party Ousainou Darboe and party executive demanding the release of Solo Sandeng, dead or alive and others ‘illegally’ detained. They were equally rounded up by police and are all currently standing trial, denied bail and remanded at the State Central prison of Mile II.
The Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, Chapter 4, Section 25, Sub Section 1(D) states that “Every person shall gave the right to freedom of assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms.”
The Gambia is this year heading for another election in December but already marred by violence. The opposition are calling for electoral reforms and continue to stage daily protest in the country while Mr Jammeh described them as been ‘backed by the West’ to destabilize The Gambia.
On May 19, 2015 at a regional summit in Accra, The Gambia supported by Togo opposed a proposal by the sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS, to impose a region-wide limit to the number of presidential terms to two. The proposal which was on the agenda for the Heads of State and Governments to decide was finally not adopted.
Mr Jammeh came to power by a coup in 1994 followed by an election in 1996 and re-elected every five years since then. The government of Mr Jammeh has since been accused of showing little or no respect for the fundamental human rights of Gambian citizens.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions have increased, security forces continue to harass and mistreat detainees, prisoners, opposition members, journalists, and civilians with impunity. Prisoners are reportedly held incommunicado, face prolonged pre-trial detention, and are denied due process. The government has infringed on privacy rights and restricted freedom of speech and the press with disappearances and mysterious killings the order of the day.