UDP Supporters Demand Justice

(JollofNews) – The Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has strongly condemned the three year jail term given to its leader and 18 members by the high court in Banjul.

Ousainou Darboe, Femi Peters, Lamin Dibba, Kemesseng Jammeh, Lamin Jatta, Babucarr Camara, Fakebba Colley, Ismaila Ceesay, Momodou Fatty, Dodou Ceesay, Samba Ceesay, Mamud Kinteh, Mfamara Kuyateh, Fanta Darboe, Lamin Njie, Juguna Suso, Momodou LK Sanneh, Yaya Jammeh and Masanneh Lalo Jawla were Wednesday found guilty by Nigerian born judge, Justice Eunice Dada for  taking part in an unlawful assembly, riot, riotously interfering with traffic, holding a procession without a license and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession.

They were arrested in April after they took to the street to demand justice for their party’s organising secretary, Solo Sandeng, who was arrested a day earlier and beaten to death by state security agents.

The UDP said verdict was predictable, utterly unjust.

“The verdict, the charges, the trial process, the conduct of the security services, the Attorney General, and prosecutors all reflect a corrupt and discredited effort to arrest, torture and persecute innocent citizens,” the party said.

“The government overtly and covertly conspired within its agencies to violate the constitution, facilitated the subornation of perjury by coaching witnesses to deliberately lie in court under oath, consistently denied all the accused

Gambia opposition UDP protest
UDP Leader Ousainou Darboe, fourth from the right, leading the protest in April.

due process and actively blocked lawyers from effectively serving the defendants in the pursuit of justice.

“This wasn’t a trial. It was a farce and an attempt by the criminal regime of Yahya Jammeh to thumb its nose at the Gambian people in particular and the wider international community who are adamant that the government fully account for its murderous conduct surrounding the peaceful events of April 14th and 16th.

“Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and his courageous colleagues who have shed their blood to free our country from tyranny are not cowered by the threats and violence of a discredited regime. They will endure whatever comes their way in their justified pursuit of the freedom and justice they know our people deserve.

“Consequently, they ask every citizen and friend of the Gambia to not be deterred by the cruel and unjust conduct of this regime. Remain singularly focused on the fight for freedom, democracy and rule of law for its absence which is not lost on any Gambia is a mortal threat to the welfare of all and sundry. Let us stand together and fight for the very life of our country to forestall large-scale conflict that unchecked oppression eventually leads to. Do not be distracted or feel helpless in this long, difficult and necessary battle. Tyrants have always succumbed to the will of a determined people and our Gambia is unlikely to be an exception to this universal truth. Do not be distraught . Stay strong, stay united in purpose and do not deviate from battle for freedom.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the conviction of the opposition members  highlights the continuing downward spiral for human rights in Gambia,

“The sentencing of senior opposition figures such as Ousainou Darboe is the latest in a continuous chain of violations committed against those who dare to speak out in Gambia,” said Stephen Cockburn, deputy regional director for Amnesty International in West and Central Africa.

“Amnesty International considers all those who continue to languish in jail for protesting peacefully to be prisoners of conscience, who should be immediately and unconditionally released.”