Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. made a personal petition to Gambia’s fitful president, Yahya Jammeh, to discharge two men convicted on the routine charge of treason. Prisoners Amadou Scattred Janneh and Tasmir Jasseh, high ranking officials in the Gambia government, were held in the country’s infamous Mile 2 Central Prison.
The feat to free the prisoners was no easy task. In the Freedom House latest report on Gambia, the independent watchdog organization talked about Gambia’s voter intimidation, government control of the media, journalists subject to arrests, harassment, violence, torture of prisons, and severe suppression of the opposition.
(Not to mention how human rights groups routinely denounce Mr. Jammeh’s government for its systematic use of suffering, jailing of journalists, repression of free discourse and rigging of election.)
Rev. Jackson decided to travel to Gambia after Jammeh announced plans to conduct a mass execution of dozens of prisoners on the country’s death row.
Shortly before Mr. Jackson’s arrival, two leading independent newspapers were shut down by Mr. Jammeh’s government, and two journalists pursuing a permit to protest against the executions were arrested. And earlier in the month, the government debarred a visiting BBC West Africa correspondent who had come to report on the executions.
Upon Jackson’s arrival, nine prisoners were already killed, however, he went on to finish what he set out to do. The two prisoners are now freed and currently in the United States.
Rev. Jackson Sr. has a personal connection to the Gambian’s president and has met him on several occasions, which probably concludes why he was able to persuade the leader to release the former prisoners.
In a short telephone interview, Mr. Jasseh, who had been head of Gambia’s immigration agency, described his six and a half years in prison as a “very horrible experience”. He stated that he was tortured horribly. Mr. Janneh, a former information minister, said Mile 2 was, “One of the worst prisons in the world.”