Family of U.S. citizen jailed in her native Gambia hopeful of sooner reunion

The husband of a U.S. citizen that was jailed in The Gambia is hoping to reunite with his wife by February, after the defeat of the country authoritarian ruler President Yahya Jammeh.

Ebrima Jawara’s wife, Fanta Jawara, a nurse was due to return home to her family in Fedrick, Maryland, but was arrested in the West African nation after rare protests erupted outside the country’s capital, Banjul.

Jammeh was shockingly defeated in the polls by a political newcomer, Adama Barrow. He first conceded defeat but made a political u-turn rejecting the outcome, and putting the country into a political crisis.

“I am very hopeful that it will not escalate beyond this. I am hopeful that Jammeh will step down and my wife would be home,” said Ebrima Jawara.

Fanta is now released on bail, but unable to leave The Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, because her passport has been taken by Gambian authorities. The defeat of Jammeh gave Fanta and at least forty other opposition detainees the opportunity to be released on bail.

The Jawara family deny she was part of the protest that saw security forces torture an opposition activist to death, and the use of live rounds against unarmed demonstrators.

The judge that presided over Fanta’s case said she was not part of the protest, but convicted her for refusing to enter her defense. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power had campaigned for Fanta’s release.

She was charged with unlawful assembly, rioting, inciting violence, riotously interfering with traffic, holding a procession without a license, disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Rights campaigners say her jailing was unlawful. Fanta spent seven months in The Gambia’s Mile 2 prison, one of the world’s most deadliest yet unheard of detention centers. Jammeh calls the jail his free hotel with free meals.

Former inmates say they are given expired food and many die of malnutrition and other health complications. According to the UN, torture and extrajudicial execution are prevalent. Even Fanta was not spared.

“The police officers started dragging me and slapping me, they were beating me from the time I was arrested up to the time we arrived at the police intervention unit camp,” she said in her statement.

Fanta’s children are anxious to see their mom. She has missed out on their birthdays, award ceremonies and prom.

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