A prominent human rights attorney said Gambians are shocked and disappointed following a court’s decision to sentence eight people to death after finding them guilty for plotting in 2009 to overthrow embattled President Yahya Jammeh.
Assan Martin said defense lawyers are currently contemplating appealing the death penalty ruling, adding that the decision undermines the confidence Gambians repose in the country’s judicial system.
“I can tell you that the reaction today is very somber and it is a big sad day in our legal history for this court’s judgment. This is a shocking judgment [and] a sad judgment for many Gambians… I can honestly tell you in my own view that all those evidence and the testimonies were very, very weak,” he said.
Convicted of treason, the eight defendants were also found guilty of procuring arms from Guinea and on two other counts of conspiracy with the aim of overthrowing President Jammeh’s administration.
The defendants were six army officers and two businessmen. The army officers include the former director of Gambia’s national intelligence agency and the former chief of defense staff.
Attorney Martin said Gambians are of the opinion that the judicial process was not thoroughly followed.
“I believe that anybody who does anything should be dealt with according to law but, there should be enough evidence to warrant a conviction. Today, I can tell you one thing that public confidence in our legal system is very low… we are grappling with the decision of the court to be honest,” Martin said.
He also said defense attorneys have about 30 days to file an appeal against the conviction.
Analysts say in 1995 President Jammeh re-introduced the previously abolished death penalty after he seized power through a bloodless military coup d’état in 1994.
International human right groups have often questioned what they described as the government’s heavy-handedness in repressing any dissenting views – a charge the government denies.