Former Gambian Interior minister Ousman Sonko will remain in a Swiss jail for another three months after the country’s attorney general broadened an investigation into whether he committed crimes against humanity.
Sonko has been in pre-trial custody since January after the Geneva-based legal group Trial International filed a criminal complaint accusing him of having personally taken part in torture.
The Swiss Federal Prosecutor has expanded its criminal proceedings against him.
Sonko who went to Switzerland seeking asylum last year, is accused of crimes against humanity.
He is thought to have commanded Gambian police, prison staff and others to torture people. Based on statements by several criminal and civil prosecutors as well as witnesses, the prosecutor’s office has now raised new allegations against Sonko. However, it declined to elaborate when asked for details by Swiss public television, SRF.
Sonko applied for Swiss asylum in November 2016. The Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation against him in January 2017. In May, they extended his prison detention by three months to delve deeper into the investigation.
As interior minister, Sonko is accused of commanding a special squad known for its brutality against Gambian citizens.
Trial International, an international justice NGO, accused Sonko of having personally taken part in what it described as torture. Sonko served under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh.
Sonko’s lawyer in Switzerland, Phillippe Currat, has not commented on the development.
Sonko was a Gambian army commander and head of the police before serving as Interior minister for ten years until 2016. Last year he fled to Europe after being fired from his post by the former president. After failing to find asylum in Sweden, he applied in Switzerland in early November and had been living in an asylum centre in the capital, Bern.
Switzerland has jurisdiction in the case because of a 2011 law that allows it to investigate anyone on its territory accused of serious international crimes, regardless of where the alleged atrocities were committed.
The Gambia is also investigating claims of torture and killings under the old regime. In an exclusive interview with Swiss public television, SRF, Gambian president, Adama Barrow, as well as Interior Minister Mai Fatty called for Sonko to be handed over to Gambian authorities.