More than 200 convicted prisoners, including 31 treasoners, have become beneficiaries of President Yahya Jammeh’s amnesty. Also freed were the illegally detained family members and friends of the December 30th failed attempt coup.
Families and friends of the freed convicts gathered in Mile 2 yesterday to witness what they had not expected from a regime that has a history of ruling its citizens with iron fist. The air in the country’s central prisons was filled with mixed feelings as people were spotted jubilating and crying.
The total number of the freed Mile 2 prisoners totalled 231(182 Gambians and 49 foreigners), according to official figures. Jammeh’s clemency is extended to convicted drug dealers, murderers and former officials jailed for graft.
Among those who enjoyed President Yahya Jammeh’s July 22 anniversary gift were former ministers (Njogu Lamin Bah and Lamin Jobarteh, former ministers of Presidential Affairs and Justice, respectively), top security officials (Lang Tombong Tamba, Lamin Bo Badjie and Ensa Badjie, heads of the Army, Intelligence and Police) and the ruling party loyalists. They appreciated the gesture and expressed their loyalty to a president whose government locked them up for years.
Some of the pardoned prisoners whose conviction were based on trump up charges showered praises on President Jammeh for allowing them to breathe air of freedom. A former Director of the National Intelligence Agency, Lamin Bo Badjie, described his jailing as God-ordained. For Abdoulie Joof, the jailing has not diluted his support and loyalty to President Jammeh and the APRC.
In a statement, the government said it had granted amnesty to all those convicted during the People’s Progressive Party. However, it had failed short of disclosing the number of prisoners convicted before July 22, 1994 when a group of disgruntled soldiers overthrew a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.
Many activists hailed Mr. Jammeh’s clemency but felt disappointed that no single political or prisoner of conscience was among those pardoned. They accused President Jammeh of being angry with the likes of Amadou Sanneh, the UDP National Treasurer serving five-year jail term in Mile 2.