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Rev. Jesse Jackson wins release of two Americans from Gambia prison

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Dr. Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, president of the Republic of The Gambia. PHOTO COURTESY BUTCH WING

By Butch Wing

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire

BANJUL, The Gambia — After a face to face appeal by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. on Sept. 17, the president of Gambia agreed to release two American citizens into Rev. Jackson’s custody who were serving long prison sentences in the West Africa nation and allowed them to return to the United States with Jackson on Tuesday. The two men were to return to the U.S. by plane with Rev. Jackson from The Gambia.

One of the Americans, Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former professor at the University of Tennessee, is serving a life sentence for treason. Janneh has dual American and Gambia citizenship as does the other imprisoned American, Tamsir Jasseh, who was serving a 20-year sentence for treason. Tamsir is also a U.S. veteran and served in Desert Storm.

Dr. Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, president of the Republic of The Gambia and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, said that 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, “As 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 set to live. Those serving sentences of 20 years to life are now scheduled to go home to their families. For that we thank God.”

This is the sixth time Rev. Jackson has traveled abroad to negotiate the release of U.S. citizens and people from other countries held captive — in Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Cuba. Liberia and now the Gambia.

U.S. Ambassador to Gambia, Edward “Ned” Alford, applauded Rev. Jackson’s successful mission, saying, “Jackson came as a private citizen. We very much welcomed his visit and his effort. (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 delegation accompanying Rev. Jackson includes 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, to travel to Gambia to plead for mercy.

A day before the delegation arrived in Gambia, the president suspended the executions. Monday, 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.

He said, “The arrow is pointing upward.”

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