Gambia arrests Jammeh’s ex-spies over detention and death

DAKAR–– Police in Banjul, the Gambia on Tuesday say ten members of Gambia’s former spy agency have been arrested and detained on suspicion of murdering a political activist who led a protest during ousted dictator Yahya Jammeh’s era.

Police record shows that Solo Sandeng, the late organizing secretary of the United Democratic Party, was arrested in April 2016 for leading a street protest demanding electoral reform. After his arrest and detention, he died in prison.

“Two of the suspects have been granted bail and eight are still in custody,” police superintendent David Kujabie said.

Nine former top spy officials at the former National Intelligence Agency, including its former director general Yankuba Badjie, are currently on trial at the Banjul High Court for their alleged role in the murder as well as the torture of opposition activists.

Thirteen witnesses have so far testified in the case which continues to attract crowds but has suffered repeated delays since it opened a year ago.

Under Jammeh who used the intelligence agency to enforce his rule, the UDP was the main opposition party in the West African state.

The military ruler, Jammeh, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and ruled the former British colony with an iron fist for 22 years, during which period he was accused of rampant corruption and human rights abuses.

He had himself elected and re-elected president until he lost a vote in December 2016 to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

After a six week standoff, Jammeh was finally forced to hand over power and left the country on January 21, 2017, after the intervention of the Economic Community of West African States.

Barrow’s government has pledged to protect human rights, including freedom of expression and press freedom, which were tightly controlled under Jammeh.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.

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