Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network
(GIN) – A former minister in the government of President Yahya Jammeh was sentenced this week to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the ruler of 17 years with T-shirts demanding an end to dictatorship.
Amadou Janneh, who also holds a U.S. passport, was convicted of treason after a seven-month trial. Three co-conspirators were also convicted of printing T-shirts with the inscription: ‘Coalition for Change The Gambia; End Dictatorship Now’ written on the front side; ‘Freedom’ inscribed on the back.
They were sentenced to three years in jail.
Janneh, 48, was communications minister in 2005 and 2006. He has also worked with the US embassy in Banjul as political and economic affairs officer.
The trial was closely followed by Gambians in the internet. On the blog “Hello Gambia”, Mathew K Jallow wrote: “The trial period was unbearable …. The sight of Dr. Janneh and codefendants handcuffed and in leg shackles is more than anyone could bear to behold, but seeing them being lifted off the ground like furniture items and placed in the backs of military trucks, brought tears to the eyes of many Gambians. … This is an all round ridiculous case of political intimidation.”
Dr. Janneh and colleagues were arrested in early June 2012, detained for days before being paraded on TV and later charged before the Court. During the trial, a French-language email addressed to the President of Senegal was entered into evidence allegedly signed by Janneh. A police officer said he translated it from French to English although later admitted he was not certified in either language. Wolof is widely spoken as are Jola, Soninke, Fulfulde and other local languages.
The president, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has been accused of running the west African country with an iron fist and flouting human rights.
Mr Jammeh’s government has been criticised by international rights groups for its attitude to civil liberties, especially freedom of the press and the detention and disappearance of journalists.
Jammeh replied: “The journalists are less than 1% of the population and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1% of the population to destroy 99% of the population, you are in the wrong place.”