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Gambia10 October 2007

Two Amnesty International researchers and a journalist arrested and harassed while visiting detention centres

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the harassment of two Amnesty International researchers and a Gambian journalist, who were arrested and detained for three days before being released on bail, pending possible legal proceedings.

The worldwide press freedom organisation joined Amnesty International in urging the Gambian authorities to immediately and unconditionally clear all three of any wrong-doing.

The deputy director of Amnesty’s Africa programme, Tania Bernath, a British-American national and her Nigerian colleague, Ameen Ayobele, were arrested at Basse in the east of the country on 6 October along with Yaya Dampha, a journalist on the opposition daily Foroyaa.

They were heading to the town of Fatoto, after visiting Ousman Jatta, “Rambo”, in detention, an opposition supporter unfairly imprisoned for nearly a year.

The three were taken to police HQ in the capital Banjul on 8 October, released on bail in the evening but told to report to the police the following day. Bernath and Ayobele have both had their passports confiscated.

“President Yahya Jammeh’s government holds one of the worst records in Africa in terms of unfair arrests and outrageous accusations,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The Amnesty International researchers and Yaya Dampha were arrested because they were doing their job, investigating the failure to respect human and civil rights in Gambian prisons. This led to coercive, harassing and illegal measures, which the authorities should end as quickly as possible.”

Lawyer for the three, Lamine Camara, said they had been told to report to police again tomorrow. Police had wanted more time to examine the case and obtain the opinion of the justice ministry about whether to take proceedings against them.

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