Swiss extends Gambia ex-minister Sonko’s detention

Swiss extends Gambia ex-minister Sonko’s detention

A Swiss Federal Court has decided to keep ex-Gambian police minister, Ousman Sonko in custody for three more months, the second of such decision since his detention last winter.

Ousman Sonko, the embattled right-hand man of former autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh is being investigated for committing crimes against humanity while in office in the West African state.

Swiss authorities say Mr. Sonko must remain behind bars whiles investigations into his alleged crimes continue.

The former minister has been in pre-trial custody since January after the Geneva-based legal group Trial International filed a criminal complaint against him.

Since his arrest, two victims, supported by Trial, have filed criminal complaints against the former interior minister.

Sonko is accused of personally taking part in torture and killings. He commanded a special paramilitary group that targeted Jammeh’s perceived enemies while serving as head of the elite presidential guards.

He has been directly named in coordinating the assassination of a journalist, Deyda Hydara, whose daily newspaper, The Point was critical of Jammeh.

Sonko also served as the police chief before becoming Minister of Interior and a senior member of the National Security Council.

Sonko fled to Europe after being fired by Jammeh last year. He was denied asylum in Sweden and was reportedly returned to Spain then left to Switzerland.

Before his sudden fall from grace, Sonko had threatened to unleash a deadly crackdown on opposition protesters following anti-government protests in which the security forces killed at least three people.

Switzerland has jurisdiction in the case because of a 2011 law that allows it to investigate anyone on its territory accused of serious international crimes, regardless of where the alleged atrocities were committed.

Sonko is also the subject of a probe in The Gambia into killing of a former spy chief, Daba Marenah and a troop of soldiers suspected of a putsch to oust Jammeh.

He has been indicted for Marenah’s killing. Gambian investigators say they were shot then dumped inside an old well in Bulloborr village in southern Gambia.

Jammeh’s government had reported that they escaped when they were being transported from a maximum security prison outside the capital to an island prison in central Gambian region of Janjangbureh.

The Jammeh regime frequently committed serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, killing, and torture against those who voiced opposition to his regime.

The repression and abuses created a climate of fear within Gambia, generating increased attention from the international community.

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