Gambia charges ex-justice minister

2013-06-19 22:32

Banjul - Gambian prosecutors charged a sacked justice minister and another senior government official with a series of counts of corruption, negligence and abuse of power on Wednesday.

Lamin Jobarteh and Pa Harry Jammeh, a cousin of President Yahya Jammeh, are accused of forcing the chief justice to leave Gambia "in a move to drop or suppress criminal charges against some staff of the judiciary", said the charge sheet read out before magistrates in Banjul.

Jobarteh, appointed to the justice ministry in February last year, is also accused of having a German national arrested after the man failed to provide him with a bribe, according to the charge sheet, which did not specify the dates of the alleged offences.

The two were remanded in custody to await trial.

Jobarteh has already been held for around three weeks since being fired by the president over accusations he took bribes to have high-profile criminal cases dropped, a police source told AFP.

The minister was axed from his post and arrested in late May and is being detained in the Gambia's spy headquarters, the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul, the source said.

Jammeh, who has ruled mainland Africa's smallest country with an aura of mysticism and an iron fist since seizing power in 1994 aged 29, vowed ahead of his swearing-in for a fourth term last year to eradicate corruption.

The president regularly reshuffles his cabinet in what many observers say is a sign of insecurity and runs several key ministries himself, including defence and religious affairs.

Petroleum minister Njogu Bah, regarded as one of Jammeh's most trusted ministers, was taken into custody on Thursday last week, the police source confirmed, just three days after he had been handed the portfolio.

Last year former information minister Amadou Scattred Janneh was sentenced to life in prison for treason, for distributing T-shirts which featured the slogan "End to Dictatorship Now".

A sliver of land nestled within Senegal, Gambia has over the years also seen the arrest and jailing of a number of senior military and police officers for crimes relating to treason, drug trafficking and corruption.