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Journalist, two Amnesty International officials arrested, accused of espionage

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 6 October 2007, Yaya Dampha, a journalist with the bi-weekly "Foroyaa", a Banjul-based independent newspaper, was arrested by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) together with two Amnesty International (AI)-UK officials, Tania Bernath, acting director for Africa and Ayodele Ameen, a campaign officer for West Africa. Their driver, Lamin Barrow, was also arrested.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that the four, who were denied bail, were arrested in the eastern town of Basse, about 500 kilometres from Banjul, while on a working visit authorised by the Gambian authorities. Although they are yet to be officially charged, sources say they are accused of alleged espionage after their first interrogation.

MFWA sources said after concluding a two-day "Good Governance" training programme for civil servants and journalists, Dampha and the Amnesty officials went to detention centres in the countryside to look for disappeared Gambians including journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and opposition politicians Kanyiba Kanyi and Ousman Rambo Jatta, who were all arrested over a year ago.

MFWA sources said upon their arrest, the four were taken to the residence of the governor of Upper River Region for interrogation, after which they were transferred to Basse Police Station where they spent the night.

On 7 October, the four were transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Central Police headquarters in Banjul, where Barrow, their driver was released without charge.

The MFWA expresses its strongest dissatisfaction over the action of the Gambian authorities. We are very much concerned about the safety of the detainees and call on the government of President Yahya Jammeh to immediately and unconditionally release them.

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