(JollofNews) – Amnesty International has called on the Gambian regime of President Yahya Jammeh to set free a local radio station proprietor, who is currenly languishing in state custody.
Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, of the independent radio station, Teranga FM, has been detained since August 2015 and later charged with sedition and publication of false news.
He has been in detention at Mile Two Prisons for over six months and was recently diagnosed with an enlarged liver.
Mr Ceesay is on trial accused of having acted with seditious intention and the publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public.
Amnesty International said it understands that he shared with two of his friends, who were both working at the office of the President, a picture showing a gun pointing towards President Yahya Jammeh and a comment purporting to make a threat of uprising against him. He sent the material, which he did not originate and was already circulating on the internet, privately to his friends on mobile phone.
In connection with these events, Mr Ceesay was arrested and detained on 17th July 2015. He was brought before the Banjul High Court on 25th August 2015 and charged with six counts of sedition, contrary to section 52 of the Gambian Criminal Code, and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm among the public.
At trial, Fatou Drammeh, the principal state witness, was partly cross-examined by the defence in court but failed to turn up for further cross-examination. She fled from the Gambia and has said that she was forced by Gambian authorities to testify against Mr Ceesay. The court ruled against an application submitted by the defence to expunge her evidence from record on 17th December 2015. He remains in custody at Mile Two Prisons and his trial resumed on 28th January.
Mr Ceesay complained for over a month of stomach ache and difficulties in sleeping before he was brought to the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul on 13th January for medical examination. The doctor diagnosed him with an enlarged liver and prescribed some tablets for the pain. He was taken back to prison.
The Gambian law on sedition is a draconian law that gives authorities sweeping powers to arrest and imprison critics and goes beyond the legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression as defined under international law.
As Mr Ceesay continues to languish in custody, Amnesty International called on the Gambian authorities to immediately drop these charges and release him, or charge him with an offence which is consistent with international standards.
It also called on the authorities to ensure that Mr Ceesay gets immediate and continued access to medical treatment for his enlarged liver, and that he is not subjected to torture or other ill treatment.
Furthermore, the right group urged the authoritiesto amend the provisions of the Criminal Code that unduly restrict freedom of expression in the Gambia, in particular Section 52 on seditious publication, in line with international standards.