British Missionaries to Gambia Jailed for One Year for Sedition

December 31, 2008 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

fultons-gambia-miss.jpgDavid Fulton, 60, a former Army major, and his wife, Fiona, 46, pleaded guilty to making seditious comments “with intent to bring hatred or contempt against the president or the government”. Their sentence, in a country which has one of west Africa’s worst human rights records, sparked concern after reports that other prisoners on similar charges have been poisoned while in jail.

The couple, originally from Torquay in Devon, have spent 12 years in Gambia. They were arrested on 29 November at their home at Kerr Sering, an hour’s drive from the capital through tropical bush, and accused of spreading “hatred against the government” via a series of round-robin emails believed to relate to their missionary work.
Friends said that they were not given details of what exactly they were accused of until appearing in court.
They were sentenced in the capital, Banjul, and will be held at one of Africa’s toughest jails, the former colonial penal institute of Mile Two Prison. They were also fined 250,000 Dalasis (£6,500).
According to Pastor Martin Speed, of Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in Bolton, who has been campaigning for the Fultons’ release, the couple were advised to admit the sedition charge in the hope that the judge might show leniency.
The Fultons met two decades ago in England. He had found God while serving a sentence for armed robbery and she was a prison visitor. They have two children, Iona, 20, and Luke, 17, who are studying in Exeter, Devon.
Mr Fulton was a chaplain in the Gambian army and at the national airport and had begun ministering to spiritual needs at the immigration posts that dot the long frontiers with Senegal, to the north, south and east.
Meanwhile, Mrs Fulton spent her time training prison chaplains, looking after terminally ill people and visiting female hospital patients.
Peter McMinn, Mrs Fulton’s father, said that before the couple’s arrests, his son-in-law had been attacked three times in the street by locals who did not like the couple’s Christian beliefs. He said: “They threw stones at him and attacked him with bits of wood. He was very shaken.”
Mr McMinn, 80, from Teignmouth, Devon, said of his daughter: “She has done nothing wrong. If anything she has been a blessing to people out there.
“David went out to Gambia initially on holiday and then decided that he liked the people and wanted to do God’s work out there. My son-in-law is a very kind man and a good Christian. All he wanted to do was help people.
“My daughter is a wonderful mother and a person who selflessly does her best to help those in need. She is doing work that God has given her to do.”
Gambia is ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, whose record on human rights and civil freedoms has been questioned after a crackdown on anyone who has criticised the government.
There have been six coup attempts during his 14-year rule. Whilst the country is constitutionally secular, the population is 90 per cent Muslim.
Amnesty International believes that at least 30 alleged government opponents are being held in poor conditions in Mile Two without charge or access to lawyers or their families.
A recent report by the human rights watchdog concluded: “Lawyers are reluctant to take on human rights cases for fear of reprisals and families of victims are afraid to speak out. The media, for the most part, censors itself in the face of arrests, fines, threats and physical attacks on those accused of criticising the government. All public protests have ceased.”
Source: Telegraph

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