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Magistrate court frustrates journalist's appeal

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 28 February 2008, an Appeal court in Banjul adjourned, for the second time, the case of Lamin Fatty, a Gambian newspaper journalist who has been convicted of publishing "false information".

This is because nine months after the journalist's conviction, the Kanfing magistrate court which convicted the journalist has not been able to type out the fifty-seven page judgment.

On 12 February, when the case was called for the first time, the Appeal court said it could not proceed with the case because there was no document for it to work with.

The court has therefore scheduled the hearing for 10 April.

Fatty, a reporter with the banned newspaper "The Independent" was convicted on 5 June 2007 for publishing false information. Fatty was fined an amount of 50,000 Gambian Dalasi (approx. US$1,850), or a year's imprisonment in default. He was briefly detained at the Mile Two Prison on the outskirts of Banjul, following his inability to immediately pay the fine.

Previously in April 2006, Fatty was held incommunicado for more than two months, following a publication in "The Independent" that erroneously reported that Samba Bah, a former functionary of the Gambian government, was among a number of people arrested by the government in the wake of a purported coup attempt. Following Bah's denial, the newspaper retracted the story and apologisd to him yet Fatty was still arrested and incarcerated.

The Gambian authorities charged Fatty with publishing "false information" and made Bah a civilian state witness. The case lasted for about a year with several adjournments, prompting Fatty's lawyer to consistently complain about the delays.

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