U.S. authorities free jailed Gambian activist implicated in thwarted December 30 coup

A Gambian activist who was jailed in the United States for his involvement in the December 2014 attempted overthrow of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has been released.

Banka Manneh, 44, a US resident who was chairman of the Gambia Civil Society Associations, regained his freedom early this week after completing a six-month jail term.

Mr. Manneh was sentenced in May 2016 by a court in Minnesota for aiding and abetting in the preparation of the failed coup. He surrendered to prison authorities in August. He will now be subjected to a three-year probation.

Three other US-based Gambians: Cherno Njie, Papa Faal, and Alagie Saidy Barrow were also convicted by the same court after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.

The men are the first to be prosecuted in 35 years by U.S. authorities for violating the country’s Neutrality Act.

The coup saga in the Gambia unfolded during the early hours of December 30, 2014, when a group of men entered the small West African nation to carry out the putsch, with the expectation that others in the country would join and assist them.

But as they attempted to storm the State House they were met with heavy gunfire from security forces, squashing the coup, and killing at least three assailants including former the former commander of the presidential guards Lt. Col. Lamin Sanneh.

It is estimated that over US$300,000 was spent on ammunition by the coup plotters.

About half a dozen Gambian soldiers who were given life and death sentences for taking part in the coup were also freed by Gambian authorities.

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