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Gambia Opposition Seeks International Help After Leader Denied Bail

  • James Butty

FILE - Opposition presidential candidate Ousainou Darboe greets supporters after casting his vote in Serrekunda, Gambia, Sept. 22, 2006.

FILE - Opposition presidential candidate Ousainou Darboe greets supporters after casting his vote in Serrekunda, Gambia, Sept. 22, 2006.

The deputy president of Gambia's main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) is appealing to the international community for help in seeking the release of party leader Ousaniou Darboe.

Darboe and 38 other opposition members were arrested last month and charged with conspiracy to commit a felony. They had previously been charged with unlawful assembly, rioting and incitement to violence after they held a protest rally demanding political reforms and demonstrated against the death of UDP official Solo Sandeng, who died while in custody.

People with a white paper covering their mouth and a t-shirt reading "enough is enough" demonstrate in Dakar on April 22, 2016, against the alleged human rights violations in Gambia.

People with a white paper covering their mouth and a t-shirt reading "enough is enough" demonstrate in Dakar on April 22, 2016, against the alleged human rights violations in Gambia.

A judge on Thursday denied bail for Darboe and the others.

"I would like for the international community to assist us as soon as possible because there is no justice in this country," said Mariam Secka, UDP deputy secretary general.

Secka said her party has no confidence in the Gambian legal system because it answers mostly to President Yahya Jammeh.

Gambia will hold national elections in December this year, and Secka said the party is concerned Darboe's arrest will have a political impact.

"My party is worried because they can keep Mr. Darboe and some members of his team until the election is over, and that wouldn't be to our advantage," she said.

Denied bail

During Thursday's court appearance, Darboe was denied bail, which Secka said is unusual because defendants are entitled to bail in Gambian courts.

Gambia Information Minister Sheriff Bojang told VOA that Darboe and the others violated Gambia's Public Order Act, which forbids acts such as street protests and meetings without first receiving permission from the police.

But Secka said Darboe, a seasoned lawyer, did not break any law: "Mr. Darboe is a legal man, he knows what is right and he knows the constitution."

An Amnesty International official told VOA this month that Darboe and the other jailed opposition members are prisoners of conscience and should be released because they were simply expressing their political opinion as guaranteed under the Gambian constitution.

Darboe and the other opposition members are scheduled to appear in court again Monday.

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