Gambian court convicts former spy chief Yankuba Badjie, four others for murder of opposition activist Solo Sandeng

Gambia’s former spy chief and four other ex-intelligence officials have been sentenced to death for the 2016 murder of an opponent of ex-president Yahya Jammeh, a rare instance of criminal accountability for Jammeh-era crimes

The country has observed a moratorium on the death penalty since 2018, so the sentences handed down by Gambia’s high court will be converted to life imprisonment.

The court issued the sentences late on Wednesday against Yankuba Badjie, the former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency and four other senior NIA officials for the murder of Solo Sandeng. Two other defendants were acquitted. The defendants all denied wrongdoing.

Sandeng, an activist from the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), was arrested at a rally in April 2016, beaten to death and buried in an unmarked grave, witnesses said.

Adama Barrow, representing a coalition of opposition parties, defeated Jammeh in an election later that year. Jammeh tried to cling to power but eventually fled to Equatorial Guinea under threat of a regional military intervention.

Barrow’s government has said it will prosecute Jammeh and others for killings, rapes and other crimes committed during his 1994 to 2017 rule in line with recommendations by a truth and reconciliation commission last year.

But Jammeh remains in exile, and victims groups have complained about how slow progress toward prosecutions has been.

The only other person convicted for abuses during the Jammeh era was a former minister, Yankuba Touray, who was sentenced to death last year for killing another minister.

Gambia’s attorney general said in May that the government would work to implement the truth commission’s recommendations on the basis of “clear timelines and measurable outcomes”.

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