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Missing former minister found, treason charges laid against him and three others

(MFWA/IFEX) - 21 June 2011 - Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh, a detained former minister of information and communication, and three others have been charged with treason for allegedly distributing materials demanding an end to the authoritarian rule of President Yahya Jammeh.

Dr. Janneh, an outspoken former minister, went missing after his arrest on 7 June 2011. He was picked up by plainclothes security agents who, without explanation, sealed off his offices and dismissed his staff. Dr. Janneh was whisked off in the direction of Banjul, the capital, to an unknown location. On 13 June, he was seen publicly for the first time since his arrest when he appeared before the Banjul Magistrate's Court together with three other individuals. All four are being tried on charges relating to sedition and treasonable offences.

The three - two Gambians, Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, and a Nigerian citizen, Michael C. Ucheh Thomas - were arrested on the same day as Dr. Janneh and were held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They have since been remanded in prison custody to reappear at a High Court as the magistrate court does not have the jurisdiction to hear treason cases.

The charges against the four stem from allegations that they printed and distributed T-shirts for the Gambian Coalition for Change political pressure groups, which is calling for an "End to Dictatorship Now" in The Gambia.

This is not the first time in 2011 (an election year) that the authorities have arrested Gambian citizens for exercising their political rights. On 7 March, two family members of Mai Fatty, an exiled leader of the opposition Gambian Moral Congress (GMC) party, were detained by the Gambian police after they displayed photographs of Fatty and other GMC campaign materials at their family home in the Upper River Administrative Division of The Gambia.

MFWA views the treason allegations as a deliberate attempt to scuttle the elections and entrench the authoritarian regime of President Jammeh. In 2006, similar methods were used when a systematic clampdown on journalists and political opponents denied Gambians their right to free and fair elections.

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