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14.07.2021 Gambia

Ex-Gambian junta member sentenced to death for murder

By AFP
Yankuba Touray is seen here, right, at a European-African summit in Lisbon in December 2007, when he was fisheries and natural resources minister. Also seen: former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, centre, and Ethiopian ex-premier Meles Zenawi, left.  By ERIC FEFERBERG (AFP/File)
LISTEN JUL 14, 2021
Yankuba Touray is seen here, right, at a European-African summit in Lisbon in December 2007, when he was fisheries and natural resources minister. Also seen: former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, centre, and Ethiopian ex-premier Meles Zenawi, left. By ERIC FEFERBERG (AFP/File)

A Gambian court sentenced an ally of ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh to death Wednesday for his role in the murder of a former finance minister, an AFP journalist saw.

Jammeh seized power in 1994 as part of a bloodless military coup in the tiny West African state.

He then ruled with an iron fist until January 2017, when he fled to Equatorial Guinea after losing presidential elections to a relative unknown, Adama Barrow.

Gambia's government subsequently established a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate Jammeh-era abuses, which heard several hundred witness testimonies between 2019 and May.

But Yankuba Touray -- a member of the junta that ruled The Gambia for some two years after the 1994 coup -- refused to testify at the TRRC in 2019.

Public prosecutors then charged him with the 1995 murder of former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay.

On Wednesday, the court in the capital Banjul found Touray guilty of committing the murder, according to an AFP journalist present.

Gambia.  By afp (AFP) Gambia. By afp (AFP)

"The sentence of death shall be by hanging," Justice Jaiteh told the courtroom.

He added that Touray had ensured that no investigation was carried out after the murder and that the victim's body was "burnt beyond recognition".

The Gambian government placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2018, although the sentence is still on the books.

A lawyer for Yankuba Touray said that the ex-Jammeh ally will appeal the court's decision.

Touray's lawyers had initially argued that, as a former junta member, the constitution guaranteed him immunity from prosecution.

But the Gambian Supreme Court dismissed this argument.

The TRRC is expected to deliver a report on its findings this month. Victims are hoping that the findings will pave the way towards charges against the ex-dictator himself.

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