Africa

Report: Gambian arrests, detention, search for gays

Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (Photo courtesy of WIki Commons)

Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (Photo courtesy of WIki Commons)

Gambian authorities reportedly arrested two men and teenager last weekend on homosexuality charges and have held them for six days without taking them to court.

Fatu (Fatou) Camara, a journalist and former Gambian official who fled from the country last year, reported on her Fatu Radio website that the three were “arrested on suspicion of being gay at the Duplex Nightclub and are currently detained at National Intelligence Agency in Banjul.”

Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh is virulently homophobic, often referring to LGBT people as “vermin,”  “satanic,” a threat to population growth, “anti-god, anti-human, and anti-civilization.”

Under Gambian law, homosexual activity is punishable by a 14-year prison term.  In September, the Gambia’s National Assembly passed a bill that would impose life imprisonment for some homosexual acts if Jammeh signs it, the Associated Press said.

According to Camara on Facebook and an article she published on Fatu Radio by Gambian writer B.K. Faal, after the Duplex Nightclub arrests in the Gambia, five other men and a group of lesbians fled the country for fear that they also would be arrested on homosexuality charges.

Camara, currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, added yesterday on Facebook:

Fatu Camara (Photo courtesy of Laral.net)

Fatu Camara (Photo courtesy of Laral.net)

I got word that the three men suspected of being gay are still held by The NIA for six days today without being released or brought before a court of law.

The constitution of The Gambia dictates that nobody should be held for 72 hrs without being released or charged, meaning that the rights of these three is violated whether they are murderers or gay.

What I am defending here is their constitutional rights, NOT what they are said to be, it is important that we get that.

I understand they are held in a very dark room with no light and that they can barely see each other, this is unfair.

She said that investigators are going door to door with a gay man, attempting to identify other gay men.  She also said that Jammeh supporters, whom she called “Jammeh’s black boys,” were looking for people they suspected of being lesbian or gay. “We all know the black boys are the ones engage in torture and killings for Jammeh,” Camara said.

She identified the two arrested men as Alieu Sarr and Morr Sowe. She also identified the 17-year-old and published photos of all three.

“I am calling on The Gambian Authorities to ‪#‎FreeAlieuSarr‬ ‪#‎FreeMorrSowe‬ ‪[and #‎Free (the 17-year-old)]. Let us not judge them, but instead stand by them and call for their release,” Camara wrote.

Sarr was previously arrested in the Gambia in April 2012 in a group of 17 people accused of homosexuality. All those defendants were released on bail; the charges against them were dropped in August 2012.

"Fatou Camara in crime scene" -- caption on photo of August 2014 incident from Sidisanneh.blogspot.com)

“Fatou Camara in crime scene” — caption on photo of August 2014 incident from Sidisanneh.blogspot.com

Camara served as Jammeh’s press secretary until she was arrested in August 2013 after being accused of publishing false news “with intent to tarnish the image of the president.” Previously she had been a TV host in the Gambia.

In August, during the U.S./Africa summit in Washington, D.C., Camara and other anti-Jammeh activists protested against the Gambian leader. Jammeh’s bodyguards reportedly assaulted the protesters.

The anti-Jammeh Jollof News, which covers Gambian news from its base in the United Kingdom, said of the incident:

The ex-Gambian TV talk show host Fatou Camara, who recently launched online news site Faturadio.com, was rushed to a hospital after she was repeatedly assaulted while a member of Yahya Jammeh’s security was taken for questioning.

The Gambian leader was among 50 African Heads of State who attended the Washington DC gathering, and his hotel was besieged by Gambian activists protesting against his dictatorial regime. The demonstrations resulted in President Jammeh missing most of the summit including important events such as the opening ceremony and the business forum.

To many observers, the attack meted out on Fatou Camara along with other activists, Sam Phatey, Coach-Pa Samba Jow and Ousainou Mbenga was a response to the humiliation that Jammeh and his entourage were subjected to by the protesters. The protests exposed the true face of a regime that promotes the abasement of the rule of law and civic liberties.

13 thoughts on “Report: Gambian arrests, detention, search for gays

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