By Innocent Anaba
The founder and Director of a Gambian human rights organisation, Mr Edwin Nwakaeme, is being held in detention and is at risk of a six-month prison sentence. His trial is ongoing.
Nigerian born Edwin,Â has run Africa in Democracy and Good Governance, ADG, since 2006. He faces charges of â€œproviding false information to a public officialâ€, as although the organisation is officially registered as a charity, it may not have non_governmental organisation status. The charges appear to be linked to the organisation writing to the daughter of the President of Gambia last November, nominating her as an ADG ambassador in the context of celebrating World day for the prevention of child abuse.
Mr Nwakaeme was first arrested on February 22,Â by the Immigration Department, but was released three days later. He was then rearrested on March 1, and has been detained since then. He was taken to court on March 8, charged with giving â€œfalse informationâ€, but he refused to plead either guilty or innocent on that day because he did not have a lawyer with him.
He was taken to court again on March 10, and charged with giving â€œfalse information to the office of the president that Africa in Democracy and Good Governance, ADG, an NGO.
â€œHe pleaded not guilty. His lawyer applied for bail for him but the judge denied it and remanded him in prison. The case has been adjourned untilÂ March 22.Â He could be sentenced to six monthâ€™s imprisonment or a fine of D500 (approximately $20). He is currently detained in Mile 2 Prison in Banjul.
Newspapers have reported that the authorities have also seized Mr Nwakaemeâ€™s passport and speculate that the police may intend to deport him to Nigeria.
Amnesty International in reaction to the arrest, said it considers these charges against Mr Nwakaeme to result solely from his activities as a Human Rights Defender and considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. Charges of â€œfalse informationâ€ are usually used in cases of fraudulent applications for identity papers, or where people give false identities to government officials.
Amnesty had meanwhile, reminded the Gambian authorities that action of this kind violates international and regional human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR, and the African Charter on Human and Peoplesâ€™ Rights, ACHPR.