Gambia charges and remands former intelligence chief, 8 other agents

Gambian authorities have committed to custody its former intelligence chief and eight other agents of the National Intelligence Agency, accused of human rights abuses.

NIA Director Yankuba Badjie, his deputy Louis Gomez, Operations Director Sheikh Omar Jeng and special agents Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Lamin Lang Sanyang, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Baboucarr Sallah were arrested by the police on Monday overseeing killings, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture and rape.

Jammeh set up the agency the year after he seized power in a coup in 1994 and it gained a reputation as the state’s most feared institution.

A court on Thursday remanded them for conspiracy to commit felony and for the murder of a senior opposition member Solo Sandeng. They are currently being held at the Mile II prison on the outskirts of the capital, Banjul.

Sandeng was arrested in April 2016 for protesting unfair electoral regulations ahead of the polls that saw Jammeh suffer defeat in the hands of businessman Adama Barrow.

He was tortured to death at the NIA and his body has not being returned to his family.

His death in custody prompted Gambia’s current Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe to take to the streets, leading to his arrest and jailing.

Jammeh fled the Gambia last month after sparking a political standoff that saw regional troops intervening in the West African nation.

Thursday’s jailing is the first of senior Gambian officials since Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency was taken over by Badjie in 2013. The infamous agency has been renamed by President Adama Barrow under a new leadership.

It is now called the State Intelligence Services and stripped of its powers of arrest. The new administration plans staff retraining to limit the agency’s brief to “intelligence gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant arms of government.”

Badjie reportedly gave orders to torture protesters during peaceful demonstrations by a group of opposition supporters calling for electoral reform in April 2016.

The Barrow administration is moving fast to clear out Jammeh’s henchmen a few weeks after the end of 22 years of brutal rule.

(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting by Lamin Jassey; Additional Reporting from DW, Reuters and Aljazeera; Contribution and Editing by Sainey Marenah)

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