Gambia jails ex-minister for life

2012-01-17 22:32

Banjul - A court in Gambia on Monday sentenced a former information minister, who is also a US national, to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government of President Yahya Jammeh.

Judge Emmanuel Nkea found Amadou Scatred Janneh and three others guilty of treason for "conspiring among themselves to carry out an enterprise with force with the intent to usurp the executive powers of the state".

Janneh was also found guilty on charges that "on or about the month of May 2011, he distributed T-shirts bearing 'Coalition for Change The Gambia, End to Dictatorship Now' with [the] intent to usurp the executive powers of the state."

Janneh, 48, was communications minister in 2005 and 2006. He has also worked with the US embassy in Banjul as political and economic affairs officer.

The president, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has been accused of running the west African country with an iron fist and flouting human rights.

Since coming to power, Jammeh has jailed dozens of army officers for allegedly attempting to overthrow his government. Some have been sentenced to death while others have been jailed for life.

Former army chief Lang Tombong Tamba was sentenced to death alongside seven other top brass in July 2010 for his role in an alleged coup plot a year earlier. The sentence has yet to be carried out.

Former navy chief Sarjo Fofana was last year sentenced to 20 years in jail for his role in an alleged coup plot in 2006.

Fourth term a foregone conclusion

Jammeh was elected for a fourth term in office in November, a result he had said was "a foregone conclusion ".

He regularly reshuffles his cabinet in what observers say is a move to avoid a rival power base from forming.

Gambia is a thin sliver of land situated on the mouth of the River Gambia, surrounded on three sides by Senegal it is considered the smallest state on the African mainland.

Very popular among European tourists attracted to its palm-fringed beaches, the nation is regularly criticised by rights bodies who accuse Jammeh of creating a climate of fear and quashing any dissent against his regime.

Media laws describing crimes of sedition, slander and publication of false information implemented in 2004 are so restrictive that an article, cartoon or even gesture seen as insulting to Jammeh can land any citizen in jail.

Janneh's lawyer said they will appeal the verdict. He has the right to appeal within three months of his conviction.