- Gambian police have released the detained senior officials of Amnesty International, Tania Bernath and Ayobele Ameen and a Gambian newspaper reporter, Yaya Dampha on bail.
Gambian police have unconditionally released the detained senior officials of Amnesty International, Tania Bernath and Ayobele Ameen and a Gambian newspaper reporter, Yaya Dampha.
Following mountains of international pressures, the detained officials were released. A western government is said to be providing protection for them, although their travel documents have been seized.
Bernath and Ameen - citizens of the United States and Nigeria - serve as the Africa Programme Director and Campaign Officer for Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. They were arrested by Gambian security agents in Basse, over 400 kilometres from the capital Banjul on Saturday.
After granted the authority, the AI officials travelled to The Gambia to conduct training on good governance for civil servants and journalists before embarking on investigations into eroding human rights abuses in the former British colony [once a champion of human rights and democracy].
The detained officials, who were accused of spying, have been starved for two days before being transferred to Banjul where they were refused bail, despite intervention by human rights lawyers.
Amnesty International officials, who demanded the unconditional release of their staff, said their arrest happened while they were investigating the whereabouts of the main opposition United Democratic Party, Ousman Rambo Jatta [an elected area councillor] and other Gambians, including a newspaper journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, secretly detained by the government for over a year.
Bernath and Ameen reportedly sighted Jatta in a provincial police station. The government had defied court orders to release Jatta insisting that he was not under its custody.
The Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa has dragged The Gambia to answer charges over the continued illegal detention of Mr Manneh at the Community Court of ECOWAS in Abuja. But it had deliberately refused to appear before the court, let alone defend itself. The case is set for judgment on 20 November this year.
The West African country had been a model of democracy and human rights in Africa. But a 1994 military coup that ascended President Yahya Jammeh to power has turned the country into a bulldozer of rights and freedoms.
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