Gambia frees jailed relatives of coup plotters

2015-07-26 11:32

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Banjul -Gambia has released from jail 12 relatives of the plotters of a failed December coup after President Yahya Jammeh issued a new amnesty, state television and a government statement said.

State television announced late on Thursday that several relatives had been freed though it did not specify how many, while an official statement obtained by AFP on Saturday said the pardon had been granted to 12 family members.

Prior to their release the detainees were questioned by Gambia's National Intelligence Agency over an attack against the presidential palace in Banjul in December 2014 while Jammeh was in Dubai, the government said.

Metta Jnie, the mother of coup mastermind Lamin Sanneh, and a 13-year-old son of one of the failed coup's plotters were among the 12 detainees.

"I thank God and the president of the Republic for making the release possible. I wasn't mistreated in detention," Njie told AFP on Saturday.

However a civil society activist accused the government of having detained the relatives "arbitrarily under the president's orders".

"They weren't arrested after a decision from the judicial authorities, and no court found them guilty," the activist told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Separately former finance minister Mam Boury Njie, who was dismissed in September 2012 and accused of economic crimes, was also freed under another presidential amnesty announced on Friday.

Njie, who was not among the 12 other detainees, had been cleared by a court but had continued to be held for nine months under Jammeh's orders.

The latest releases came after Jammeh granted an amnesty on his 21st anniversary in power on Wednesday to several former officials who had been convicted of treason.

No mention has been made, however, of the three soldiers and three others convicted over the foiled December attack.

Jammeh has ruled the thin sliver of a country that straddles the River Gambia in west Africa with an iron fist since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994, and is regularly accused of serious rights abuses.

Read more on:    gambia  |  security  |  east africa

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