Gambia Accuses 19 Activists of Rioting After Others Die in Jailby
Prosecutor brings six charges against opposition supporters
United Nations slammed death in custody of 3 others this week
Gambia laid charges against an opposition leader and 18 of his supporters on Thursday, a week after a protest march led to the arrest and subsequent death in custody of three opposition activists.
The prosecutor of the West African nation accused Ousainou Darboe and 18 others of charges including unlawful assembly, rioting and inciting violence. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all six counts during a High Court hearing in the capital, Banjul. Six of the accused have been held in solitary confinement in a paramilitary prison known as Mile 2, while others need medical attention, the leading defense lawyer, Antouman Gaye, told the court. The judge denied bail.
Ousainou Darboe challenged Jammeh in a 2011 presidential vote that was condemned by the Economic Community of West African States. The regional bloc refused to send observers because of what it called Gambia’s repressive political environment.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called for the unconditional release of those arrested in the wake of last week’s demonstration for electoral changes and criticized the “apparent use of excessive force” by police, according to a statement.
Gambia, led by President Yahya Jammeh for more than 20 years, has ramped up its abuses of human rights, targeting homosexuals and government opponents and their family members since an attempted coup in January 2015, according to Amnesty International. The government has denied the claims.