Reverend Jesse Jackson Negotiates Freedom for Two Americans Held in Gambia
by butch wing, rainbow push coalition
President Jammeh agrees to extend the moratorium on executions indefinitely
Banjul, The Gambia (September 17, 2012)–After a face-to-face appeal by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson today, the President of Gambia agreed to release two American citizens who were serving long prison sentences in the West Africa nation into Rev. Jackson’s custody and allow them to return to the United States with Jackson Tuesday night.
The two men will return to the U.S. by plane with Rev. Jackson tomorrow.
One of the Americans, Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former professor at the University of Tennessee, is serving a life sentence for treason. He was arrested in July 2011 and started serving his sentence in January 2012.
Janneh has dual American and Gambian citizenship as does the other imprisoned American, Tamsir Jasseh, who was serving a 20-year sentence for treason. Tamsir was also a veteran of the U.S. military, having served in Desert Storm.
The President, Dr. Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, said, because of his respect for Jackson, “a renowned” civil rights leader, he would allow the men to leave Gambia with Jackson on a flight to Brussels and then on to New York.
The President also agreed to extend indefinitely a moratorium on the death penalty and the execution of the 38 death row prisoners, and re-affirmed his commitment to allow the United Nations to investigate the disappearance of a Gambian newspaper reporter shortly after being arrested by local authorities six years ago.
Rev. Jackson stated, “It is a special joy, being able to take two Americans back home to their families. It was not a legal, but humanitarian plea. Those once scheduled to die are now to set to live. Those serving sentences of twenty years to life are now scheduled to go home to their families. For that, we that we thank God.”
This is the sixth time Rev. Jackson has traveled abroad to negotiate the release of US citizens and people from other countries held captive – in Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Liberia, and now The Gambia.
US Ambassador to Gambia, Edward “Ned” Alford, applauded Rev. Jackson’s successful mission, saying that “Jackson came as a private citizen. We very much welcomed his visit and his effort. He (Jackson) has a good track record of doing humanitarian interventions, and this is another one.”
Jammeh has been under intense international pressure the last several weeks after announcing he planned to execute all 47 inmates on the country’s death row. In late August, nine inmates, including a woman, were executed by firing squad. The President’s vow to execute the inmates sparked Rev. Jackson’s mission to Gambia to plead for mercy. Besides Jackson, the delegation included ministers Dr. S. Todd Yeary of Baltimore and Dr. Sean McMillian of Chicago, and Columbia University religion professor Obery M. Hendricks, and Rainbow PUSH staff members James Gomez, Butch Wing and Joseph Harris.
A day before the delegation arrived in Gambia, the President suspended the executions. Today, after meeting with Rev. Jackson for several hours in his wood paneled office in the Gambian State House, Jammeh agreed to extend the moratorium indefinitely.
Rev. Jackson thanked the President for his “gesture of hope,” adding, “these cases should not be allowed to divert” the world’s attention from the many “good stories” of Gambia, including a free health care system, education and economic development.
“The arrow is pointing upward,” he said.