The leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, has condemned the arrest and detention of Momodou Sabally as a violation of his rights.
Sabally was invited for questioning last Wednesday by the police but still remains in custody, and Darboe is blaming the police and judiciary for Sabally’s continuing detention without charge.
The opposition leader spoke to journalists at the “emergency press briefing” on the continuing detention of Sabally, held on Saturday, December 24, at the party’s Manjai Kunda bureau.
Sabally is the party’s campaign manager, newly-elected to the post at the UDP congress held in Janjanbureh earlier this month.
His interrogation by the police follows the state’s announcement of a coup plot against the government of President Adama Barrow and the arrest of soldiers.
Darboe, the leader of the biggest party in the country, told journalists that Sabally is being held on “spurious allegations” made by the state. He cited the contents of an audio circulating on the Internet where Sabally is heard talking to TikTok users.
According to Darboe, when they could not hold Sabally beyond 72 hours without taking him before the courts, as stipulated in the constitution, the police got a high court judge to improperly facilitate his continued detention.
Lawyer Darboe described what happened as “just an abuse of the judicial process to satisfy the government of Adama Barrow in suppressing political opponents in the country.
“What is happening is that the judiciary and the police are conniving with Adama Barrow because they knew that local government elections are coming and they are losing ground, and thus resort to intimidation tactics.
“We (UDP) will never be intimidated; we will make sure that the councils that we have we retain them, and also make sure that the councils that you (President Barrow) aspire to gain, you do not win them.”
According to Darboe, Sabally is “a thorn in their flesh; he says it exactly as it is. So that is why they think this is the way to silence him. And to do that, they have to call for the aid of the judiciary to carry out this heinous and shameful act.”
The veteran opposition leader said it was wrong for the state to use the judiciary in their quest to prolong the detention and that the way this was done infringed Sabally’s rights under the constitution.
“It is “shameful that the country failed to learn from the lessons of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
“These are not the lessons we learned from the TRRC; the lesson we learned from TRRC is that we should be measured, we should be protective of the laws of this country, we should be protective of the citizens of this country unless they commit an offense.
“You suspected somebody commits an offense, and, without preferring any charges, you go to the court and seek for his continuing detention.
“Really, I’m ashamed that some judges at our judiciary are starting to behave the way they have been in Yahya Jammeh’s time.”
According to Darboe, Sabally’s arrest is part of “a scheme, a ploy conceived several months ago” and that people can “recall in their NPP forums where they said they must silence Momodou Sabally, Ebrima Dibba” and another person.
He spoke of an “evil scheme contrived” that has now been hatched and that “unfortunately, the judiciary has been used in this unholy act of detaining Momodou Sabally.”
Darboe continued: “Gambians must know that Solo Sandeng died to make sure that tyranny does not rear its head again in this country.
“Gambians went to the polls on December 1 (2016) to elect Adama Barrow to end dictatorship in the country.”
He spoke of President Barrow’s gradual ascend to “dictatorship” and that this is being aided by the police and the judiciary.
“This is something we cannot accept and must not accept.”
The opposition leader called on the National Human Rights Commission of the Gambia (NHRC) and non-governmental organizations engaged in protecting human rights to join the UDP to demand the immediate release of Momodou Sabally.
Darboe told his audience that “the greatest threat to peace and stability is injustice; where you have injustice, that is where you have a recipe for instability.”
It is the responsibility of all to maintain peace and stability in the country, “but the greater responsibility is on the government.”
Lawyer Darboe concluded by calling on President Barrow, the police, and other security services to conduct the country’s affairs in a way that will promote national peace and stability.