Saturday 24 March 2018

Ex-spy chief's lawyers replaced in Gambia trial

Ex-spy chief's lawyers replaced in Gambia trial
(AFP (eng) 11/21/17)
Former director general of the infamous National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Yankuba Badjie

A judge called Monday for lawyers representing The Gambia's feared former spy chief to be replaced, as the first high-profile case against key figures in the regime of ex-leader Yahya Jammeh stumbled.

Two Nigerian lawyers have twice failed to appear in court to represent Yankuba Badjie, who ran the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) under Jammeh and allegedly took his direct orders to torture and kill political opponents.

High Court Justice Kumba Sillah Camara ordered the state "to provide the first accused person Yankuba Badjie, through national legal aid, a counsel to represent him," in the latest delay to a case that began in March.

The two lawyers, named as Christopher Mene and Emmanuel Chime, should appear at the case's next hearing on November 27 to explain "why they have been absent in court without permission," Camara added.

Arrested in February following Jammeh's ouster, Badjie stands accused along with eight subordinates of the murder of opposition activist Solo Sandeng, whose death in custody in April 2016 sparked rare protests uniting The Gambia's once weak opposition.

That movement subsequently fielded a single candidate, now-President Adama Barrow, in elections last December.

Jammeh was unseated and pushed into exile in Equatorial Guinea under the threat of regional military intervention.

The "NIA Nine", as they are known, face 25 counts including murder and torture.

But the country's justice minister has described the policework behind their case as "rushed", and there are fears a technicality could eventually free the men.

Murder carries a death sentence in The Gambia, though the new government has pledged to abolish capital punishment.

Jammeh ruled The Gambia for 22 years after coming to power in a 1994 coup, and is accused by rights groups of orchestrating dozens of forced disappearances, torture and murder.

The NIA Nine case resumes following a military court's decision on Friday to charge a dozen soldiers behind closed doors with sedition and treason offences, according to AFP sources, allegedly for maintaining support for Jammeh and plotting against Barrow.

The men had been held without trial for up to four months, calling into question the Barrow government's stated commitment to a new era of human rights.

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