Four Americans of Gambian origin have been sentenced by a Minnesota judge for their involvement in the failed December 30th 2014 coup in the Gambia. Texas real estate developer Cherno Njie and three others were convicted and sentenced for violating the United States Neutrality Act. The act was last used in 1981 when two individuals were prosecuted for their attempt to launch a coup in the Caribbean Island nation of Dominica.
As the main financier of the plot, Cherno Njie was sentenced to one year and one day and a $10, 000 fine. A former US army sergeant Papa Faal was sentenced to a year in jail while Alagie Barrow and Banka Manneh each gets six months sentence. Faal had already served his term.
The men were convicted and sentenced for conspiring to violate the Neutrality act. In that they conspired to posses firearms to pursue a violent crime in a friendly nation.
The fourth accused, Banka Manneh, was indicted and accused of assisting with the plot by “participating in conference calls and exchanged planning documents with the other members of the conspiracy. He had also purchased two pistols and one rifle to equip co-conspirators participating in the coup.”
All the convicts would also serve three year supervisory probation. The men, who all pleaded guilty to the charges, faced maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison.
In an earlier court sitting on Tuesday, defence lawyers tendered documentary video evidence which was played in court. The video contains testimonies by Gambians whose rights have been abused by their dictatorial government. It was meant to prove a point that the violent plot was necessary.
During his testimony, Mr. Njie said he had been in the United States for a long time but was not interested in Gambian politics. However, his breaking point came when the Gambia government executed nine death row inmates in September 2012. After that he had convened meetings on what to do about the Jammeh government’s excesses. He cited holding meetings Njaga Jagne and Lamin Sanneh who were both killed in failed coup.
Njie insisted that US officials had prior knowledge of the plot. He said the late Sanneh, who was interrogated by the FBI three days before he had left the United States, was talking to a CIA agent in Dakar about the plot.
But federal prosecutors countered Njie’s statement, arguing that interrogation Sanneh does not mean the government an inkling of the plot.
Papa Faal also testified and spoke volumes about his success achievements in the military and academic. He said his desire to free native country’s long oppressed people motivated him to take part in the plot.
Defence lawyers defended that their clients’ action was exacerbated by the acts of a repressive, dictatorial government. They made reference to the video evidence tendered in court.
Before handing down the sentence, each of the accused persons was given the chance to make their plea. All of them explained how they found themselves soaked in their endeavour to wear the same hat for both the United States and the Gambia.
In his verdict, the judge said the accused have been sentenced based on their level of involvement, clean records and supporting attestation documents. They have the right to appeal the judgment but not the guilty plea they made.
Cherno Njie is qualified for a lesser sentence. It wasn’t clear whether any of the convicts would file an appeal.