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Gambia president grants amnesty to convicted coup plotter

July 4, 2015

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Gambia’s president granted amnesty to 85 prisoners including a former police official accused of participating in a coup attempt in 2009, state media said.

President Yahya Jammeh hopes the former prisoners will become “self-reliant and law-abiding citizens,” Gambia Radio and Television Services reported Friday night.

The group includes former deputy police chief Modou Gaye, who was among eight men originally sentenced to death for allegedly trying to stage a coup using weapons and mercenaries recruited from Guinea. Amnesty International reported that the men were convicted “after a grossly unfair trial during which indictees and witnesses were tortured.”

The sentence was later changed to life imprisonment.

Jammeh came to power in a military coup in 1994 and he’s survived several coup attempts since then, the most recent occurring last December. In May, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported that Gambia security forces had detained dozens of friends and relatives of people involved in that plot, holding them incommunicado.

Jammeh’s human rights record comes in for regular criticism. The most recent U.S. State Department rights report says conditions in the tiny West African nation’s overcrowded prisons were “harsh and life threatening.”

In August 2013 Jammeh said he was “shocked” by reports that prisoners were “languishing” behind bars.

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