By Omar Bah
Human rights lawyer Assan Martin has accused President Adama Barrow of acting based on bad advice to allow Momodou Sabally’s continued detention.
Mr Sabally was arrested last week in connection with a video in which he allegedly said UDP will take the country from the president before the local government elections.
But reacting to his continued detention in a letter shared with The Standard, Lawyer Martin said: “Bearing in mind that Gambians are no longer gullible, few paranoid individuals should not think that they can stifle dissenting views. Also, we have observed that the president is being misled by some of his close aides, acting on bad advice that can sink the nation.”
He said the president and his government should remember that power resides with the people as enshrined in the constitution.
“Let the authorities not suffer amnesia over the ‘Never Again’ slogan because from our experiences of two decades ago, Gambians can no longer afford political persecutions to be an agenda of this present and any future government,” he added.
He said government’s daily press releases on the alleged coup are not the way to address sensitive law and order issues relating to evidence and truth about an alleged treasonous crime, such are issues for the courts.
“It is almost two weeks we are still waiting for our authorities to tell us something over a viral TikTok audio of a social meeting. Thus, we expect no fabrication or imaginary story will suffice to detain anyone beyond the 72 hours as stipulated by the constitution,” he added.
Commenting on the video that led to Sabally’s arrest, Lawyer Martin compared Sabally’s case to Lang Tombong Tamba and Co case, where the state tried to manufacture evidence to prosecute them.
He said the government should explain to Gambians how a doctored 19 seconds audio/video of a politician saying his party will take the country from the president could mean a coup attempt.
He urged Gambians to stand in solidarity with Sabally.
He described as unacceptable reports that Mr Sabally’s friends, lawyer and relatives are denied access to visit him.
“That is very troubling because the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise should always be the guiding principle and good practice dictates that there should be no intimidation during interrogations,” he said.
“Let the president and authorities be advised as we heard some confused and incompetent aides crying out ‘set example on alleged suspects’ who are never tried or convicted. Well, we again advise that ‘examples are not set on innocent accused/suspects. Remember, posterity is here to judge and explanation will be given some day to come, the TRRC is a guide,” he added.
Lawyer Martin added that Gambians “can no longer afford a dictatorial regime that abuse its authority and violates their rights”. “Therefore, Mr Sabally’s unlawful detention must come to a stop, either he should be arraigned before a court or be granted bail pending any investigation. His immediate release will be the best option,” he added.
Commenting on the court’s decision to extend Sabally’s detention, Lawyer Martin said a court is not expected to derogate on its duty in exercising maximum caution when dealing with rights and liberty, equally any prosecution case “cannot be built on fabrication or manufactured evidence”.
“The public is watching and will continue to speak truth to power without a doubt. The current situation is not about Mr Sabally or UDP but a concern to every Gambian and should not be associated with politics,” he noted.
He said the government should not take pride in the act of parading “innocent people” in court for humiliation because it does “not demean them, instead it elevates their status”.