Gambia arrests Jammeh’s ex-spies over detention death

Activists in The Gambia often find themselves in dangerous situations. (AFP pic)

BANJUL: Ten members of The Gambia’s former spy agency have been detained on suspicion of murdering a political activist who led a protest during ousted strongman Yahya Jammeh’s rule, police said Tuesday.

Solo Sandeng, organising secretary of the United Democratic Party (UDP), was arrested in April 2016 for fronting a street protest demanding electoral reform. He died in detention.

“Two have been granted bail and eight are still in custody,” superintendent David Kujabie said on Tuesday.

Nine staff at the former National Intelligence Agency, including former director general Yankuba Badjie, are currently on trial at the Banjul High Court for their alleged role in the murder as well as the torture of opposition activists.

Thirteen witnesses have so far testified in the case which continues to attract crowds but has suffered repeated delays since it opened a year ago.

The UDP was the main opposition party in the West African country under Jammeh who used the intelligence agency to enforce his rule.

Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and ruled the former British colony with an iron fist for 22 years, during which he was accused of rampant corruption and human rights abuses.

He had himself elected and re-elected president until he lost a vote in December 2016 to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

After a six-week standoff, Jammeh was finally forced to hand over power and left the country on January 21, 2017, after the intervention of the Economic Community of West African States.

Barrow’s government has pledged to protect human rights, including freedom of expression and press freedom, which were tightly-controlled under Jammeh.