|Yaya Jammeh at Arch 22 in July 2015|
But who are these so-called pre-July 1994 prisoners and what were the specifics of their cases including the circumstances surrounding their incarceration.
It is important to note that the total number of prisoners affected by this presidential action is three, namely Omar Manjang, Lamin Fatty and a third person - whose name is unavailable as we go to press - all police officers stationed in Brikama. They were accused of torturing to death a suspect in Brikama, and subsequently sentenced to 3 years in prison.
The government appealed the conviction because the prosecution argued that it was a case of murder and not manslaughter. The Appeals Courts later found them guilty as charged and they were sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life. This was in 1992/93. So the three were in prison for only several months before Yaya Jammeh and his band of misfits seized power illegally the following year. This case was a subject of the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report of 1992/93.
For the next 21 years, these three policemen where locked up in Mile II under the watchful eye of Yaya Jammeh. Simply going by the press release, it gives the general public the impression that these so-called pre-1994 were numerous in number and that they have been in jail for the better part of the 30-year administration of Sir Dawda Jawara when the opposite is the truth.
The three have been in Mile II only for several months under Jawara and the rest of the 21 years under Jammeh who could have released them, as he has done in the cases of Musa Sanneh and Amadou Badgie, both of whom were Kukoi Samba Sagnia men imprisoned on treason charges as a result of their involvement in the 1981 coup d'etat. They were both sentenced to 20 years in 1988. There is also no proof that they are all alive and have been released. The regime must show proof.
This is one more evidence that Jammeh and his regime are using the prisoner release as a propaganda tool to score points locally by their continued attempt to cast the Jawara administration in a bad light, with the hope of deflecting from their horrendous human rights record. It is also a ploy designed to convince the donor community, particularly the European Union, into releasing the much needed development assistant funds to his financially bankrupt regime.