By Yero Jallow
In a dramatic twist on Thursday March 19th, Minnesota Federal Magistrate, Becky R. Thorson of St. Paul, granted conditional bail to a Gambian activist who had earlier surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Mr. Banka Manneh has been on the FBI investigation list since some Gambian dissident abroad attempted to force out President Yahya Jammeh from power on December 30th. The event followed loss of lives and trial of alleged conspirators both in the U.S and The Gambia. In the US, the accused persons have been charged with violating the U.S Neutrality Act, a law that forbids using the U.S territory to forcefully dislodge a friendly foreign government.
Texas businessman Cherno Njie, Minnesota Air Force U.S veteran Papa Faal, and the Tennessee U.S Military veteran Alhagie Saidy Barrow have all been charged with violating the Neutrality Act of 1896.
After months of investigation, the FBI finally raided Banka’s home late last week, and summoned him to appear in court, to answer to pending charges against him. In a layman’s language, Banka is charged with “aiding and abetting” the December 30th alleged coup. But Banka is an activist, a sincere Gambian comrade whose simplicity and companionship is celebrated in all corners. Banka is loaded with a spirit to help oppressed Gambians and lift the nation from dictatorship to democracy.
Magistrate Thorson found Banka legible for both self-bail and public defendant (lawyer), after reviewing his alleged involvement and financial earning. The Federal Prosecution pressed on having Banka restricted on access to the internet and computer. At that point, a defiant Banka Manneh told the court he needed the computer to do his job. After a careful consideration, the magistrate allowed Banka to use the computer for work related activities.
Banka’s next hearing is slated for Thursday March 26th 2015 when he is expected to enter his plea. Within the time, Banka has been advised to surrender his passport, to not do any international travels, and appear in court as and when needed.
What many activists are furious about is where the FBI are heading with their investigations. What do they really want? What are they looking for? What interest do they have in this case that it is giving them sleepless nights? People understand about the U.S neutrality law, but agreeably, any investigations, and bringing of alleged conspirators to court needs to be done respectively according to the stipulated law. In the case of Banka, the U.S government and the FBI hav been greatly criticized in many Gambian quarters in the manner and nature they raided his home. Banka is a family man and raiding his home with two dozen FBI agents at around 5am, may not necessarily be against the law, but poses serious questions over its motive. An organization like the FBI is expected to maintain its respect and relationship to have cooperation from communities. The U.S and FBI are well equipped with all resources, therefore a case like this, needs to be investigated from the root cause and the very element provoking citizens to try act in the way allegedly acted on December 30th 2014. The U.S and FBI do not want to go down in history as having to sympathize, aid, and abet a tyrannical regime as destructive as that of The Gambia’s current dictatorship, under the worst of world rulers, Yaya Jammeh. Yes, the FBI has a job to do and no one is saying they don’t, but Gambians too have a job to do, to liberate themselves and their citizens from the clutches of tyranny. The Obama administration must not be taught history, when our pioneer fathers liberated the United States from its colonial master, Great Britain, under treasonable conditions. A law must be reflective of time and current events. A law must represent the interest of those it is written for. A law is unfavorable if it victimizes citizens rather than uplifting them. It is really a shame for a nation as powerful as America to position itself in such a funny situation.
Regardless of the daunting frustration of having to deal with the nagging trials, it was clearly a victory today for believers of justice. It was important to see Banka go home to his family and to be able to continue work. The judge didn’t make any mistake as it is the right thing to do. To those that believe in freedom, equality, and justice, everything that happens is an inspiration. The Minnesota Civil Society group extends its appreciation for the sincere solidarity from Gambians and their friends the world over.