Six soldiers who were secretly court-martialed for their role in a thwarted putsch to oust former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh have been freed by the new government, security sources and family members said.
Private Modou Njie, Lieutenant Colonel Saikou Jarju and Lieutenant Buba Sanneh were sentenced to death; Captain Buba Bojang, Lieutenant Amadou Sowe and Captain Abdoulie Jobe were sentenced to life in prison.
Elections seem to be an impossible route to end Jammeh’s tyrannical rule. A handful of dissidents, mostly from the U.S., including former military officers mounted an early morning assault on the presidential compound on December 30, 2014.
They believed they would face no resistance but instead found themselves in ambush within the tall walls of a heavily fortified palace.
Federal prosecutors in the United States charged and sentenced Texas businessman Cherno Njie with conspiring with former U.S. Army sergeant Papa Faal and others to orchestrate the coup attempt.
The failed coup gave birth to a crackdown on families of those involved and put the Gambia in the global spotlight.
The December 2014 attempted coup led to arrests and further human rights violations. The authorities continued to repress dissent and display a lack of willingness to co-operate with UN and regional human rights mechanisms or comply with their recommendations.
Gambians supported the coup. It was an awakening for many. Activists say the cries of the people have been given a deaf ear and a blind eye by the international community.
Human rights group condemned the sentencing of the six soldiers, who they say were tortured and secretly court-martialed.
Former President Yahya Jammeh had denied that any member of the Gambia Armed Forces had taken part in the attempt to oust him, although Lt. Col. Saikou Jarju was his personal bodyguard and close aide.
The six former soldiers hailed as heroes by Gambians have reunited with their families, who are relieved that Jammeh did not make a sudden decision to execute them like he did to other death row inmates in 2012.