Gambian-American coup leaders end prison sentences

Gambian-Americans that were prosecuted for a late December putsch to oust Gambia’s former absolute ruler, Yahya Jammeh have completed their sentences.

The coup leader, businessman Cherno Njie and a former U.S. Airforce Seargent Papa Faal completed their sentences and probation. Njie, the chief executive of a Texas real estate firm spent a year prison.

Several others, who were indicted with Njie and Faal are yet to complete their sentences and probation, including civil society leader Banka Manneh, U.S. Army operations specialist Alhagie Saidy Barrow and political activist Alhagie Boye.

Manneh had been released from prison with Barrow. They are currently on probation and Boye is expected to be released from a federal penitentiary next month.

U.S. Justice Department charged the men with violating a century-old Neutrality Law that prohibits citizens from taking up arms on governments of nations in which it is not at war with.

The plotters, three of whom died, including former Gambian Army Commander Lamin Sanneh and U.S. Army Cpt. Njaga died are accused of “making an expedition against a friendly nation from the United States and conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.”

The group’s plan for the coup was to restore democracy to The Gambia and to improve the lives of its people. They hoped they would be able to take over the country without having to kill any Gambian.

The men are celebrated as heroes by Gambians. Although their attempt to oust Jammeh failed, it was somewhat considered a success after it brought an unprecedented international attention to Jammeh’s crimes against the small state.

Jammeh ruled the country with an iron fist after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994. His 22-year rule came to an end in 2016, when he was defeated in a shock election result by the main opposition candidate, Adama Barrow. Mr. Jammeh only left office after mediation by neighboring countries and the threat of armed intervention.

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