A leading member of Gambia’s opposition coalition says the group is demanding answers from President Yahya Jammeh’s administration after several top security officials were arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Halifa Sallah, who is also the publisher of the independent Foroyaa newspaper, said the government is contravening the constitution by refusing either to prosecute or release the suspects.
“This is a very disturbing situation because it is high-level arrests. The former chief of defense staff Lang Tombong Tamba. Those….who were arrested since November, and some in December. And it is over a month now. They have not been arraigned before a court. Nor has any message been issued to the family in the case. Why they were arrested?” he asked.
Sallah said article 19 of Gambia’s constitution stipulates that an arrested suspect is supposed to have an attorney three hours after he or she is detained. Or the suspect should be taken to court within 72 hours or be released on bail.
The government is accused of detaining suspects since last December who it claims plotted a coup d’état to overthrow President Jammeh’s administration – a charge the suspects’ families deny.
Sallah said those arrested include Brigadier General Omar Bun Njie, Major General Modou Lamin Bo Badjie, and former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Malamin Jarju. The former camp commander of Kanilai and later Director General of the NIA was also arrested and is still being detained.
“Lieutenant Colonel Kawsu Camara, alias ‘Bombarde,’ the former camp commander of Kanilai, is also in detention at Mile 2 Prison. (And) former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) Momodou Gaye is also in custody since his dismissal and subsequent arrest in November,” Sallah added.
Foroyaa newspaper reported that the government has so far declined repeated family requests to visit the arrested security officials.
International human rights groups have often accused the government of refusing to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of unlawful killings of opponents and human rights defenders.
Opposition groups also accuse the government of impeding the right to freedom of speech by routinely arresting journalists and in some cases, charging them with criminal offenses for speaking out.