- The treason trial of eight Gambians accused of trying to overthrow the government of President Yahya Jammeh on 21 March was surprisingly transferred from the High Court to a military tribunal. The men were charged with treason and conspiracy, which could lead to capital punishment.
The eight alleged coupists are Captain Bunja Darboe, Capt Yahya Darboe, Capt. Wassa Camara, 2nd Lt Pharing Sanyang, Alieu Jobe, Tamsir Jasseh, Omar Faal and Demba Dem, a ruling party member of parliament.
The former Director of Gambia's treasury, Alieu Jobe and Tamsir Jasseh, who formerly served in the US army; have been charged with extra counts of aiding and abetting the escape of Col. Ndure Cham - the alleged coup leader - from facing justice. Seven others face charges of concealment.
Most of the accused persons are without legal representation because three of the four defence counsels earlier resigned after they failed in their application for the cases to be presided over by another judge. The lawyers accused the presiding judge, Akomaye Agim, a former Director of Prosecution, of being biased.
Also, Gambian lawyers are living with the fear of being either arbitrarily arrested or killed by unknown assailants for defending people in highly sensitive cases. They borrow cue from a human rights lawyer Ousman Sillah, who escaped an attempted murder when he was shot at night in his compound three years back.
The government would not comment the reasons for the surprise transfer of the suspects. But sources told afrol News that the government had transferred the case to the military tribunal after it had suspected that the accused are on the verge of being freed by the courts.
In March this year, The Gambia government had purportedly foiled a plot to overthrow the President, which was at an advanced stage. The foiled coup was led by the former Army Chief of Staff, Col. Ndure Cham, who has fled since then fled country.
The foiled coup announcement followed wave of arrest and detention, with human rights watchdogs accusing The Gambia government of using the coup to clamp down on its perceived enemies – journalists, politicians and rights activists. Most of those arrested were detained under horrendous conditions punctuated with torture.
A lot of security chiefs were implicated in the foiled coup. These included the former top officials of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) – Abdoulie Kujabi, Kemo Balajo, Alieu Singhateh and Foday Barry.
In April, the Gambian government had announced the escape of five detained coup suspects, which included the former Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Daba Marena. It was highly speculated that the men were summarily executed and buried in an undisclosed bush.
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