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Details are Emerging Why a Gambian Opposition Leader was Arrested


Supporters of Gambia's opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development are giving new details about what might have led to the arrest of their leader by Gambian police. Halifa Sallah, one of the most outspoken critics of President Yayah Jammeh's government was arrested Monday outside the capital, Banjul.

Amnesty International has expressed concern about political and media freedom in Gambia since Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994.

Sam Sarr, a seniorparty member and editor of the Soroyaa newspaper told VOA Sallah was arrested soon after visiting the village of Makumbaya outside Banjul where there had been allegations of rights abuses.

"Many things have been happening in Makumbaya. The newspapers have been reporting of people who were abducted and taken to a place called Kololi which is about 25 kilometers from the Capital, Banjul. What they normally do when they take them there, they take them and give them concoction to drink. They also forced them to make confession that they are witches who have eaten this person or that person," he said.

Sarr said Sallah was concerned about who was behind the abductions and the inhuman treatment of the villagers.

"What makes very strange is the fact that it is accompanied by people putting on military uniforms and armed by rifles. They are also accompanied by a group of young people, militants of the ruling party who are normally know as "green boys" and "green girls". So on Saturday Halifa visited Makumbaya on a fact finding mission to talk directly to the victims who are involved. They narrated their experiences to him, and these things were recorded, and the following day he was arrested," Sarr said.

In 2007, President Jammeh claimed he could cure AIDS in three days. With the reports of witchcraft being practiced in some parts of the country, Sarr said Gambians must act to reverse the negative image of their country.

"These are really things which have to be reversed because if at all people are being forced to make confessions that they are witches are being treated in this manner, then these are acts which a violation of the constitution because the treatment can be considered as inhuman and degrading treatment because you are taken somewhere against your will first to drink something which you do not know about and which many of those who are narrating claimed has affected their health," Sarr said.

Amnesty International has expressed concern about political and media freedom in Gambia since Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994.

Religious leaders in the country recently urged the ruling AFPRC to give amnesty to all political detainees.

Gambian leader Jammeh reportedly said the detainees committed crimes that were tantamount to treason and should have been killed under normal circumstances.

VOA has made repeated requests with current and former Gambian information ministers for interviews to address issues about the country. But too often the officials would either cancel or postpone the interview at the last minute.


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