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The Gambia: Human rights defender Mr Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme sentenced to six months detention with hard labour
On 6 September 2010, a Gambian court sentenced human rights defender, Mr Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme to six months mandatory jail term with hard labour. The court also fined him D10,000 (approximately $330 USD) in lieu of an additional three years of detention with hard labour.
This conviction follows accusations that he had given false information to the Office of the President. Front Line previously issued an urgent appeal in March 2010 regarding Edwin Nebolisa's arrest and detention.
Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme is a Nigerian national living in the Gambia. He is a founding member of the human rights organisation Africa in Democracy and Good Governance (ADG), registered as a charitable organisation at the Attorney General's Chamber in 2006. He was accused of falsely declaring that ADG has the status of a non-governmental organisation (instead of charity). The statement was included in a letter that ADG addressed to the Office of the President to request that the President's daughter accept her nomination as an ADG ambassador.
The sentence against him was pronounced on 6 September 2010 by Magistrate Hilary Abeke of the Banjul Magistrate Court. The court also banned Edwin Nebolisa from running ADG in the Gambia and ordered him to surrender all the documents and licence pertaining to the organisation. The sentence goes beyond what is provided for by statute, which provides for a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment or a fine of D600 (approximately $20 USD), or both.
Magistrate Abeke maintained that the prosecution had called in two witnesses to support the case, while the accused made a 'no case to answer submission' and therefore deliberately failed to enter into his defence. The court also rejected Edwin Nebolisa's request that the seven months already spent in pre-trial detention be counted as part of the sentence.
Front Line is concerned at the heavy sentence pronounced by the Banjul Magistrate Court for a minor offence, including the imposition of a fine exceeding the maximum provided by law for the offence in question. Front Line is also concerned that the court disregarded the seven months already spent in prison by Edwin Nebolisa.