Sunday 17 December 2017

Gambia spies plead not guilty to murder of Jammeh opponent

Gambia spies plead not guilty to murder of Jammeh opponent
(AFP 10/27/17)

Nine Gambian former state security agents accused of the 2016 murder of an opponent of ousted president Yahya Jammeh pleaded not guilty Thursday as their trial resumed after an interruption of more than six months.

The nine former leaders of the notorious National Intelligence Agency are accused of the murder of activist Solo Sandeng.

Sandeng was arrested on April 14 last year while leading a peaceful march for political reform and died in custody at the NIA headquarters.

After lengthy procedural debates, the nine defendants, including former spy chief Yankuba Badjie, denied the charges against them, an AFP correspondent reported.

Their trial opened on March 20 in the Gambian capital, but hearings have been regularly adjourned since then.

On Thursday the defendants rejected a raft of new charges, including abduction for torture and murder and fabrication of evidence presented by state prosecutor Antouman Gaye.

The hearing turned into a battle over procedural and technical issues, without the merits of the case being addressed.

Defence lawyers argued that the new charges were strewn with errors, with dates for the offences not always specified or charges that were unclear or confusing.

They argued that the new charges did not guarantee a fair trial for their clients. The next hearing is scheduled for November 2.

Jammeh's regime is accused by human rights defenders of systematically torturing political opponents and journalists, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances

Jammeh, a former soldier, ruled the small English-speaking West African country with an iron fist for more than 22 years but went into exile in January 2017 after weeks contesting his defeat in December's presidential election.

New President Adama Barrow has promised to reform the NIA, changing its name to the State Intelligence Service, and his government has said a body will be set up to investigate forced disappearances.

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