Gambia justice department has declined calls by international rights groups to abandon the prosecution of at least 15 opposition supporters, who allegedly took part in protests in May calling for the release of electoral reform and other opposition activists who were arrested for taking part in a separate protest in April.
Attorneys for the protesters said they have been denied access to their clients by prison wardens and has accused authorities of detaining them incommunicado.
Justice O. Ottabba of the High Court in Banjul ruled the incommunicado detention as unconstitutional and has since asked for attorneys be allowed to meet their clients and for families to be given visitation rights.
The case involved Ebrima Solo Krummah, an opposition activist who died in custody.
Krummah and 15 others are facing charges similar to the ones that have seen UDP leader Ousainou Darboe with at least two dozen others sent to prison for three years.
They are held liable conspiracy to commit a felony, unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, to holding a procession without a permit and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession.
Krummah is the second opposition activist to die in prison since May and has created a tense pre-electoral environment in The Gambia.
Rights campaigners say the deaths are deplorable and the UN reported that detained opposition activists were tortured and denied urgent medical care.
The EU on Friday urged The Gambia to guarantee freedom of speech and prisoners’ rights and to release all protesters arrested in connection with the April protests including the UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, to grant access to state media to opposition parties, to allow the United Nations Special Elections Team access to the country and to conduct an independent investigation into the death of another opposition activists, Solo Sandeng.
UDP presidential nominee Adama Barrow said his party has been singled out by President Yahya Jammeh’s government with its member made the target of repeated unlawful arrests, killings, and detentions.
The Gambia is heading to the polls in December and rights groups say the conditions in the country require international attention. Serious concerns about the likelihood of free and fair presidential elections in December have been raised by pro-democracy campaigners and talks for a coalition to challenge incumbent President Yahya Jammeh are on the way.