A senior Gambian journalist charged with "false communication" for reporting on a diplomat accused of corruption is facing charges that he falsely obtained a Gambian passport because the government says he is not Gambian.
Pap Saine's trouble began late last month when he wrote about the arrest of Gambian diplomat Lamin Sabi Sanyang.
Sanyang was detained on suspicion of economic crimes for the alleged misuse of government funds while serving in Gambia's embassy in Washington, D.C.
Saine wrote in his The Point newspaper that Sanyang was being held at Banjul's Mile Two prison. Police confirmed Sanyang's arrest, but disputed the location of his detention, saying the diplomat was being held at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency.
Gambian prosecutors decided the mistake warranted charges of "false publication and broadcasting" against Saine. The veteran reporter for the Reuters news agency was arrested for "willfully, negligently or recklessly" making a publication that he knew to be false.
Saine pled "not guilty" to the charges and was released on bail with the president of the Gambia Press Union standing as surety.
After several delays to the start of his trial, prosecutors have now added the additional charge of "obtaining registration by false pretense." The government says Saine obtained a Gambian birth certificate 15 years ago, illegally because, prosecutors allege, he is not Gambian.
Saine's father is Gambian, but his late mother was Senegalese. He faced similar charges in 1995, a year after military ruler Yahya Jammeh took power. At the time, Saine was charged alongside then-Point-editor Deydra Hydara.
Hydara was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while driving newspaper employees home from work in December of 2004. Human rights groups say that killing has never been properly investigated.
Following the murder, Gambian intelligence agents interrogated Saine and questioned his newspaper's tax situation in a move that the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders called "shameful." Saine's current case has been adjourned until March 11.