A High Court in Banjul on December 5, 2016 granted bail to 19 members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who were sentenced to three years in prison in July 2016.
The 19 persons who have been granted bail are leader of UDP, Ousainou Darboe and the following members: Kemeseng Jammeh, Nfamara Kuyateh, Momodou Fatty Femi Peters, Lamin Dibba, Lamin Jatta, Babucarr Camara, Fakebba Colley, and Mamudou Manneh. The rest are Momodou L.K. Sanneh, Dodou Ceesay, Samba Kinteh, Fanta Darboe, Ismaila Ceesay, Lamin Njie, Jukuna Suso, Yaya Jammeh, and Masanneh Lalo Jawla.
Presiding judges, Justice Awa Bah, Justice Ederisa Bah and Justice Adeboyeh who granted the 19 bail, gave two bail conditions: they must provide one Gambian surety and submit their passports.
The opposition members had been in custody since April 16, 2016 after peacefully protesting the arrest and subsequent death while-in-custody of opposition figure Solo Sandeng.
Sandeng and over a dozen others were arrested on April 14, 2016 while demanding for electoral reforms in The Gambia. Following the arrest and reported death of Sandeng, Darboe together with other members of the UDP took to the streets to protest but were physically attacked, arrested and detained. They were subsequently handed seven-count charges of unlawful assembly, riot, incitement to violence, riotously interfering with traffic, holding a procession without a license, disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession and conspiracy.
On July 20, 2016 a High Court in Banjul presided over by judge, Justice Eunice Dada Oshim, found them guilty of all the charges. On count one, they were sentenced to one year in prison. On counts two, three, four, five and seven, they were sentenced to six months for each count. On count six, they were sentenced to three years. Justice Oshim ruled that the sentences were to run concurrently. The opposition figures were therefore serving a three-year jail term until they were granted bail on December 5.
The release of Ousainou Darboe and the other opposition members comes three days after Gambians voted out President Yahya Jammeh who had been in power for 22 years and under whose rule The Gambia witnessed worse forms of freedom of expression and human rights violations.
Significantly, President-elect of The Gambia, Adama Barrow is a member of UDP and is said to be a mentee of Ousainou Darboe. The MFWA welcomes the release of the Darboe and the other members of the UDP and hopes that this bail will lead to an eventual acquittal of all charges against them.