Gambia must release four activists jailed for distributing anti-government T-shirts
Amnesty International today called for the immediate release of four activists arrested over the distribution of T-shirts calling for an end to dictatorship in Gambia.
One activist, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, the country's former Minister for Information and Communication, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour for treason. Three other men - Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow and Michael Uche Thomas - were each sentenced to three years with hard labour for sedition.
The four were arrested in June last year after distributing T-shirts made by the NGO Coalition for Change - The Gambia (CCG) which featured the slogan "End to Dictatorship Now".
Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, who has American citizenship, was arrested in his office on 7 June for being in possession of the CCG T-shirts. Michael Uche Thomas, a Nigerian, and Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, both Gambians, were arrested on the same day, accused of printing the T-shirts.
The four men were sentenced at the Special Criminal Court in Banjul. Charges were initially brought at the Banjul Magistrate Court on 13 June and the case was later transferred to the High Court.
Amnesty International Gambia researcher Lucy Freeman said:
“The conviction of these men is a violation of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
“President Jammeh is once again proving that he does not tolerate any form of criticism and is ruthlessly persecuting anyone who speaks out against his regime.
“These men are prisoners of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. Gambia must stop such acts of persecution and allow criticism to be heard in the country.”
Journalists and activists in Gambia are routinely subjected to human rights violations such as unlawful arrests and detentions, torture, unfair trials, harassment, assaults and death threats, making it extremely difficult for them to do their work.
Notes to editors
According to CCG spokesperson Ndey Tapha Sosseh: “The Coalition for Change - The Gambia is an organisation with the objectives of ending The Gambia’s dictatorship and as well as the climate of fear that has so consumed Gambian society.”