Rev. Jackson steps in on behalf of prisoners on death row in Gambia

 

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA – After a face-to-face appeal by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson today, along with the President of Gambia agreed to release two American citizens into Rev. Jackson’s custody. The two were serving long prison sentences in the West Africa nation and allow them to return to the United States with Jackson Tuesday night.

The two men will return to the U.S. by plane with Rev. Jackson from The Gambia tomorrow.

One of the Americans, Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former professor at the University of Tennessee, is serving a life sentence for treason. He was arrested in July 2011 and started serving his sentence in January 2012.

Janneh has dual American and Gambia citizenship as does the other imprisoned American, Tamsir Jasseh, who was serving a 20-year sentence for treason. Tamsir was also a veteran of the U.S. military having served in Desert Storm.

The President, Dr. Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, said, because of his respect for Jackson, “a renowned” civil rights leader, he would allow the men to leave Gambia with Jackson on a flight to Brussels and then on to New York.

The President also agreed to extend indefinitely a moratorium on the death penalty and the execution of the 38 death row prisoners, and re-affirmed his commitment to allow the United Nations to investigate the disappearance of a Gambian newspaper reporter, shortly after being arrested by local authorities six years ago.

Rev. Jackson stated, “As a special joy, being able to take two Americans back home to their families. It was not a legal, but humanitarian plea. Those once scheduled to die are now to set to live. Those serving sentences of twenty years to life, are now scheduled to go home to their families. For that, we that we thank God.”

This is the sixth time Rev. Jackson has traveled abroad to negotiate the release of US citizens and people from other countries held captive – in Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Cuba and Liberia, and now The Gambia.

US Ambassador to Gambia, Edward “Ned” Alford, applauded Rev. Jackson’s successful mission, saying that “Jackson came as a private citizen. We very much welcomed his visit and his effort He (Jackson) has a good track record of doing humanitarian interventions, and this is another one.

Jammeh has been under intense international pressure the last several weeks after announcing he planned to execute all 47 inmates on the country’s death row. In late August, nine inmates, including a woman, were executed by firing squad.

The President vowed to execute the including ministers Dr. S. Todd Yeary of Baltimore and Dr. Sean McMillian of Chicago, and Columbia University religion professor, Obery M. Hendricks, and Rainbow PUSH staff members James Gomez, Butch Wing and Joseph Harris, to travel to Gambia to plead for mercy.

A day before the delegation arrived in Gambia, the President suspended the executions. Today, after meeting with Rev. Jackson for several hours in his wood paneled office in the Gambian State House, Jammeh agreed to extend the moratorium indefinitely.

Rev. Jackson thanked the President for his “gesture of hope,” adding, “these cases should not be allowed to divert” the world’s attention from the many “good stories” of Gambia, including a free health care system, education and economic development.

“The arrow is pointing upward,” he said.

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