Sunday 18 March 2018

Body of murdered Gambian activist exhumed by investigators

Body of murdered Gambian activist exhumed by investigators
(AFP (eng) 03/09/17)
Body of murdered Gambian activist exhumed by investigators

The former third-in-command of The Gambia's notorious intelligence services has revealed where murdered activist Solo Sandeng was buried, police sources told AFP Thursday, almost a year after his death sparked rare protests.

Sandeng led a peaceful opposition march for political reform on April 14, 2016, but died in detention shortly after his arrest by state security agents, unleashing a wave of anger among Gambians who voted out longtime leader Yahya Jammeh eight months later.

Saikou Omar Jeng, who was the former director of operations at the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA), led police to a grave in Tanje, a small fishing village around 33 kilometres (20 miles) from the capital, according to police.

"I can confirm that the remains of Solo Sandeng are currently lying at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul," a source at Banjul police headquarters told AFP.

"Jeng led a team comprising police investigators, medical officers and the late Solo's family members to the latter's grave in Tanje," the source added, specifying that Sandeng's father and brother were those present.

Jeng was charged with murder along with eight others from the NIA on February 23, following years of accusations from the United Nations and rights groups against the country's security services alleging torture, rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.

"His body was exhumed on Saturday," police spokesman Foday Conta confirmed to AFP, without giving more details.

Jeng admitted last June that Sandeng had "unfortunately lost his life" during the "process of arrest and detention", but a new post-mortem will be carried out according to the Banjul police source.

Sandeng's death sparked protests by his party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), and is seen as a key factor in the formation of an unprecedented coalition of opposition parties that ousted Jammeh from power after 22 years in January.

Jammeh provoked outrage by responding to UN calls for a probe into the cause of Sandeng's demise with the words: "This time, there is only one dead and they want investigations? I will not," speaking to magazine Jeune Afrique.

Dozens of other UDP party members were arrested for protesting his death and given three-year jail sentences, including new foreign minister Ousainou Darboe.

New Gambian President Adama Barrow has promised to reform the NIA, changing its name to the State Intelligence Service (SIS), and his government has said a body will be set up to investigate forced disappearances in the tiny west African nation.

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