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Journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh pleads not guilty, faces six-year jail term in sedition case

(MFWA/IFEX) - Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist, faces a possible prison sentence if found guilty of sedition charges following an interview highly critical of President Yahya Jammeh and his administration, which she granted to the media in 2004.

The Kanifing Magistrate court trying her has fixed 18 August 2008 as the day it will give its ruling on the case.

Manneh has been charged on three counts of "acting with seditious intention", "publication of seditious words" and "publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the Gambian public". Manneh has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. She risks a total of six years in prison if she is found guilty of these charges.

The charges stemmed from an interview she granted in June 2004 to "The Independent", a banned Banjul-based newspaper in which Manneh accused President Jammeh and his government of "tearing our beloved country to shreds". The article also called President Jammeh "a bundle of terror". The interview was later published on several online Gambian newspapers, including ( http://www.all-gambian.net ).

The case has been protracted, adjourned on a number of occasions and characterized by a general lack of seriousness in the manner in which it has been handled. Throughout the proceedings, Manneh has remained stranded in the Gambia, unable to return to her workplace in the US.

The court has heard testimonies of two National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Operatives and one civil servant as prosecution witnesses.

Manneh was arrested at the Banjul International Airport on 28 March 2007 upon arrival from the US. She was detained for a week and released on bail in the sum of 25,000 dalasis (approx. US$900). Her travel documents were confiscated by the NIA.

Updates the Fatou Jaw Manneh case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92963

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