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"Disappeared" journalist seen

(MFWA/IFEX) - Chief Ebrima Manneh, the detained journalist of the pro-government newspaper "Daily Observer" was seen on 26 July 2007 at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH), the Gambia's main hospital, where he had been hospitalised for treatment of high blood pressure.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that Manneh was seen in the company of personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), a para-military wing of the Gambian Police Force and Prison Service.

The sources said Manneh, who was very weak at the time he was seen had briefly been admitted to "Gamtel Ward" Hospital before being transferred to a military clinic in Banjul.

Manneh was said to have been detained at Mile Two Central Prison on the outskirts of Banjul. Prior to that, his captors kept moving him from one detention centre to another covering nearly all the police stations in the Gambia. At a point in time, he was said to have been kept at a military post in Kanilai, President Yahya President's home village and Fatoto Police Station which is the last major town of the country.

Manneh "disappeared" one week after the July 2006 African Union (AU) Heads of State summit in Banjul. Colleagues of Manneh witnessed his arrest by two plainclothes officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) at the premises of the "Daily Observer". He was suspected to have passed "damaging" information to a foreign journalist prior to the summit.

The Gambian Security Agencies have repeatedly denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

Local and international pressure continues to mount on the government of President Jammeh to free Chief Manneh. The government on 16 July 2007 failed to make an appearance at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court to answer a charge of violating the human rights of Manneh.

The Court has fixed 26 September 2007 as the date for the new hearing.

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