She was jailed sentenced to three years for participating in a demonstration against the country’s president.
Frederick, Md (KM) Every effort is being made by the US Department of State to free a Frederick woman from a prison in Gambia. That’s according to 8th District Representative Chris Van Hollen. He and 6th District Representative John Delaney, and Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have issued a statement calling for Gambia to release Fanta Jawara.
Jawara was arrested during a demonstration in April in the Gambian Capital of Banjui against that nation’s President, Yahya Jammeh. She was sentenced to three years in prison, along with opposition leader Ousainou Darboe, who is her uncle.
Jawara says she was not part of that demonstration.
“This is absolutely outrageous. She has been put in prison on trumped up charges,” says Van Hollen.
He says the US can use some leverage to try to get Jawara freed from prison. “They can make clear that this is unacceptable. This is a violation of her rights and her rights as an American citizen.”
Van Hollen was asked if Gambia receives any US aid. “They don’t receive a lot of American aid, but we’re looking at some of the levers that we do have in terms of some of the direct assistance, but other forms of assistance from the international community,” he says.
In a previous statement, Van Hollen, Delaney, Cardin and Mikulski says Jawara’s imprisonment violates Gambia’s constitution, which provides for the right of due process, freedom of political association and right to assembly peacefully. It also outlaws torture.
Officials say protests have taken place in the Gambian capital advocating for electoral reform and the resignation of President Jammeh. The government,has responded with mass arrests of protesters and harassment of the political opposition in the lead to elections scheduled for December.
President Jammeh has been in power since 1994 after taking over in a military coup. The government has been accused of gross violations of human rights, including extra judicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests.
Despite that, Van Hollen remains confident the State Department will be successful in getting Jawara freed. “We don’t have the greatest relations with this government, but I do believe we’ll be successful if not right away, in the longer run here,” he says.
Van Hollen says his office is in touch with Jawara’s family in Frederick, keeping them up to date on the latest efforts in trying to get her released.
Jawara is a 45-year-old mother of two children.