Jesse Jackson Wins Release of U.S. Citizens From Gambia Prison

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After meeting Jackson President Jammeh agreed to extend the execution moratorium indefinitely

[Global: Africa]

After a face-to-face appeal by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson the President of The Gambia agreed to release two American citizens who were serving long prison sentences in the West Africa nation.

They will return to the United States with Jackson on Wednesday and a news conference will be held at JFK Airport, in New York.

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 The 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.

Gambia's President Yayha Jammeh, said, because of his respect for Jackson, "a renowned'' civil rights leader, he would allow the men to leave The Gambia with Jackson on a flight to Brussels and then on to New York.

Jammeh 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 The Gambian newspaper reporter, shortly after being arrested by local authorities six years ago.

“It is a special joy, being able to take two Americans back home to their families,” Jackson said. “It was not a legal, but humanitarian plea.  Those once scheduled to die are now set to live.  Those serving sentences of twenty 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 US citizens and people from other countries held captive – in Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Cuba and Liberia, and now The Gambia.

“Jackson came as a private citizen.  We very much welcomed his visit and his effort," said US Ambassador to The Gambia, Edward “Ned” Alford, who added that Rev. Jackson, "has a good track record of doing humanitarian interventions, and this is another one.”

President 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.

Those traveling with Rev. Jackson included ministers Dr. S. Todd Yeary of Baltimore, Dr. Sean McMillian of Chicago, Columbia University religion professor, Obery M. Hendricks, and Rainbow PUSH staff members James Gomez, Butch Wing and Joseph Harris. All traveled to Gambia to plead for mercy.

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, President 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 The Gambia, including a free health care system, education and economic development.
"The arrow is pointing upward,'' Rev. Jackson added.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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