16 November 2012

Gambia: Are Lance Corporal Samba Bah, Ebrima Jallow Among the Pardoned Prisoners? The President's Office Should Clarify

The family members of the jailed Lance Corporal Samba Bah and Ebrima Jallow, who were serving mandatory jail terms of 10 and 3 years respectively and were believed to be among 27 prisoners who were released on a presidential pardon, said they are yet to be released from prison.

The families of the two convicts said they were informed of the news of the pardon of the duo, but are yet to welcome them home. The families said they could not understand why the two were not released after their names were announced among those that were pardoned. They said they want the prison authorities to explain why the duo is still in custody.

A relative of Lance Corporal Samba Bah said when they last visited him at Mile II prison shortly before Tobaski, he was seen with a red badge strapped on one of his hands and he confided to the family member that the red badge means he has been obedient to the prison authorities and that there is a possibility that he could be released any time. The family member said they got reliable information that Bah was among those prisoners who were pardoned by President Jammeh and that he was taken from his cell and taken to another room to be informed of his pardon by the head of State. The family member explained that when the news of his pardon was made known to him, Bah disposed off all his personal belongings to other inmates in prison with the conviction that he would be released. He said after waiting for a while, he (Bah) was told by a senior officer that he was not the Samba Bah who was named among those pardoned. They said he could not believe it as he was making his final preparation to leave the State Central Prison. The family members said they really want to know the fate of their loved one whom they are still expecting to join them.

The family of Ebrima Jallow, who was convicted alongside Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh, Modou Keita and the late Michael Uche Thomas , who died in prison, on the charge of sedition and later sentenced to 3 years, said they heard of the news that he was pardoned alongside his co. convict Modou Keita. The family said Ebrima did not join them for days after the announcement of his name on national TV. The family said they were informed that Jallow was among those to be release and was informed by the prison authorities about the development. The family said Ebrima had even informed the good news to his cell mates and distributed all his personal effects among the inmates only to be called and told by a senior prison officer that he was not the Ebrima Jallow pardoned. The family expressed disbelieve that Ebrima's co-convict could be released while he is left behind.

Both families said they want to know why their loved ones were informed of their release and later told that they were not the ones to benefit from the presidential pardon.

Since on Tuesday, this reporter has been trying to contact the Administrator of the Prison Service, Commissioner Ansumana Manneh, for an explanation on the issue of the two prisoners. His cell phone kept on ringing without answer. When contacted again on Wednesday, he asked the reporter to see him at his office, but upon arrival at Mile II, the reporter was told that Commissioner Manneh could not see him due to his busy schedule.

It could be recalled that Corporal Samba Bah ,a resident of Brikama, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on Thursday, 19 April 2007, on charges of concealment of treason by a General Court Martial held at the Yundum Army Barracks. He was convicted alongside Captain Pierre John Mendy, Captain Abdou Karim Jah, Captain Bunja Darboe, Captain Yaya Darboe, Captain Wassa Camara, 2nd Lieutenant Pharing Sanyang, Lieutenant Momodou Alieu Bah, who was released last year, reinstated in army and now promoted to the rank of Major, Corporal Babou Janha and Private Alagie Nying. The sentences ranged from life imprisonment to10 years.

Ebrima Jallow was convicted on Monday, 17 January 2012, by Justice Emmauel Nkea of the Criminal Division Court at the Banjul High Court to a mandatory jail term of 3 years. His co-convict Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh was released on an presidential pardon after the intervention on his behalf by American Civil Rights Campaigner Rev.Jesse Jackson. The other co-convict Modou Keita was also released on a presidential pardon on Friday 26 October. However, one of their co-convicts Michael Uche Thomas, a Nigerian national, died in prison on 30 July 2012, after serving 6 months in jail.

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