BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia’s state prosecutor charged former communications minister Amadou Scatred Janneh and three others with treason on Tuesday, in the latest crackdown on critics of President Yahya Jammeh.
Janneh, the former president of the Gambia Press Union Ndey Tapha Sosseh, and two others currently living abroad, face charges of conspiring to overthrow the government on May 26 this year.
They could face a death sentence if convicted.
Janneh and another three were also charged with “seditious acts” for allegedly planning to print T-shirts carrying the slogan “Coalition for Change the Gambia: End Dictatorship Now”.
Janneh, Sosseh and the three others living in the country entered not-guilty pleas for both charges. The former minister appeared in court in handcuffs and leg shackles under tight security. Judges set the trial date for October 13.
The tiny West African nation has drawn increasing criticism from rights campaigners, who accuse the president of being erratic and showing little regard for democracy. Elections are scheduled for November 24.
Though presiding over a period of stability since taking power in a 1994 coup, he has jailed several members of his inner circle in recent years for allegedly plotting to overthrow him.
The Gambian leader is best known to the outside world for saying in 2007 that he had concocted a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS that only works on Thursdays.
Jammeh told a rally on Monday that only God, not an election or a coup, could remove him from power.
A court in Gambia imposed 20 year jail sentences on Monday on the country’s former army and navy chiefs after they were convicted of being involved in a foiled 2006 coup attempt.
Last year, a Gambian court jailed an opposition politician for using a megaphone at a rally without permission.
Gambia is a slither of land surrounded by Senegal, with which Jammeh has had a prickly relationship due to accusations that he backs Senegalese rebels.