UPDATED: The IIJD continues its call for action to release journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh, who was held by the Gambian government on charges of sedition after giving a critical interview accusing the president of inaction and betrayal. The day before her trial recommenced on June 27th, her charges were amended “to false publication with intent to cause alarm and fear in society and uttering seditious words.” This provides hope for those working to help Manneh, because according to The Gambia Echo, amending a charge translates to a lesser penalty in the case of conviction. However, this amendment also indicates foul play on the part of the prosecution that knows it cannot win on the original charges of sedition and so is moving to a misdemeanor charge that it feels it can win.
On June 27, the second prosecution witness, Mr. Basiru Gassama, completed his testimony against Manneh, reading excerpts of the interview for which Manneh was charged with sedition, citing her criticism and frustration with the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh and her insinuation that he should be replaced. However, it became apparent in his testimony that he did not posses the vocabulary necessary to understand the meaning of many of Manneh’s comments, and merely understood that she was criticizing his president in a way he didn’t agree with. In an important development, the judge in the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court has ruled that the charges brought against Manneh are offenses in the Gambia, and that it should be transferred from the Kanifing Magistrates' Court to the Banjul Magistrate’s court according to the Daily Observer in Banjul. The Judge in Kanifing felt the jurisdiction of the Banjul Magistrate’s court is better equipped to hear the case because that is where the article was first read and where the sedition charge was first voiced. The trial continues in Banjul, and Fatou Jaw Manneh remains in the Gambia as her trial moves forward.
Click here to read the Letter to the Gambian Ambassador to the UN - April 2007
Click here for an update on the Freedom of Speech Tried in Gambia - May 2007