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Former minister gets life imprisonment for demanding an end to the dictatorship

(MFWA/IFEX) - A criminal court in The Gambia on January 17, 2012 convicted Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh, a former Minister of Information and Communication, of treason and sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labour.

Three others, Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, both Gambians, and a Nigerian citizen, Michael C. Ucheh Thomas, were also handed three-year sentences by the court presided over by Emmanuel Nkea, a Nigerian-born judge.

Prior to the sentencing, Dr. Janneh, a former outspoken critic of President Jammeh and his jailed colleagues, had been remanded following their arrest on June 7, 2011. They were charged with two counts of treasonable offences for distributing materials demanding an end to the authoritarian rule of President Yayha Jammeh.

According to the prosecution, Dr. Janneh and his three jailed colleagues conspired with others including Ndey Tapha Sosseh, former Gambian Press Union (GPU) chairperson “to overthrow the Government of The Gambia by unlawful means”.

All the convicted persons belong to a political pressure group, Gambian Coalition for Change, that printed anti-government T-shirts during the election year.

During the trial, the prosecution, which has demanded the death penalty, called on 14 witnesses who brought forward evidence against the accused persons. However, Dr. Janneh and his colleagues declined to open their defence or call witnesses. Instead, their lawyer, Lamin Camara, filed a written address to the court.

MFWA strongly condemns the judicial system in The Gambia for imposing unjust prison sentences on Dr. Janneh and three others who did no wrong by asking Gambians to end the authoritarian regime. We ask the international community to put pressure on the Gambian government to reverse the court's decision.

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