(JollofNews) – An opposition leader in the Gambia called Sunday for President Yahya Jammeh to release relatives of coup suspects arrested and kept incommunicado since the attack nearly four weeks ago.
The presidential guard on December 30 put down a bid to seize power blamed mainly on ex-servicemen from the Gambian and US armed forces while Jammeh was in Dubai.
There has since been a wave of arrests, detentions and harassment across the country targeting family members of those suspected of involvement, relatives and right groups have said.
“Those who are arrested just because they have family ties with the insurgents should be released since no person becomes culpable to a criminal offence just because of family ties,” Halifa Sallah, leader of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism, told AFP.
“Justice based on blood ties and blood feuds belongs to the Stone Age and is not permissible in republics.”
Gambian law enforcement agencies including the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Presidential guard have arrested at least 30 people since the beginning of January, according to Amnesty International.
“The arrest and prolonged detention of family members of the alleged coup plotters, who have had no opportunity to challenge their detention, violates the basic legal protections provided for by the country’s constitution, as well as regional and international human rights law,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for west Africa, said in a statement earlier this week.
The detainees include the mother of Lieutenant Colonel Lamin Sanneh, the former commander of the Presidential Guard accused of masterminding the attack.
“They whisked her away to an unknown location and since then we have not heard from her… We are worried because she is old and has not done anything illegal,” a relative told AFP last week.
Essa Bojang and Fatou Sonko, the parents of alleged co-conspirators Bakary and Dawda Bojang, were arrested on the same day in northern Gambia by NIA officers who said they were taking them to Amdalai, a village on the border with Senegal.
“We went to Amdalai Police station and the officers there said they have not set eyes on them,” a relative told AFP.
“We are yet to know the reasons why they are arrested. We do not also know where they are being kept.”
Family members of Bai Lowe — a man suspected of having taken part in the coup attempt — were arrested when NIA officers raided their compound in a village south of Banjul with a list of people to arrest, Amnesty said.
The relatives include Lowe’s 13 and 19-year-old sons Yusupha and Alieu, a family source told AFP.
“They whisked them away on board a vehicle and since then we have not seen them. They are kept incommunicado at an unknown location. Since their arrest and detention, Yusupha and Alieu have not been going to school. This is affecting their education,” he said.