afrol News, 15 July - The high court in Banjul today sentenced eight senior Gambian officials to death, accusing them of planning to stage a coup against President Yahya Jammeh in 2009.
The alleged "coup plotters" receiving their death sentences in the Gambian capital today included ex-army chief Lang Tombong Tamba. The other seven included three senior army officers, senior state officials and businessmen - all Gambian citizens.
The group was convicted of three counts of high treason, to which all of them had pleaded not guilty. The high court nevertheless found it proven that the group had plotted to overthrow President Jammeh.
The original indictment stated that the eight accused had procured arms, ammunition, equipment and mercenaries from Guinea and other places between January and December 2009, with the aim of staging a coup and overthrowing the government of The Gambia.
The long trial started in March this year, with the defence claiming the accused had no case to answer, asking for the case to be dismissed by the court.
However, the views of the prosecution were listened to. A total of 16 witnesses testified, most of which were military officers and members of The Gambia's feared intelligence service NIA. NIA is known for its harsh torture methods.
While the Jammeh government and the Gambian national press - which is under strong pressure to propagate government views - vehemently have defended that ex-army chief Tamba indeed was planning a coup, opposition groups and the exiled Gambian press claim the "coup plot" was only yet another attempt by President Jammeh to strengthen his total powers.
Mr Jammeh, then a junior army officer, himself staged a military coup against the elected government of The Gambia in 1994. Since then, he has been elected President three times, however always by intimidating the opposition and throwing critical voices into prison.
This is the third time Mr Jammeh claims there has been a plot to overthrow his government. Earlier "revelations" of coup plots in 2006 and 2007 led to a clampdown on possible rivals and the last remnants of a free press.
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