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The Gambia: Continuing judicial harassment of Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho
Human rights defenders Dr Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho will appear in court on 3 November 2011. Over a year after the opening of the trial and with no substantive evidence from the prosecution having been presented, the authorities continue to adjourn and unduly prolong the trial.
Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho are, respectively, Executive Director and Programme Coordinator of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), an organisation working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and children.
During the last court hearing at Banjul Magistrate Court, on 13 October 2011, Isatou Touray, who is also first defense witness, testified again about the activities of GAMCOTRAP and rejected the accusation of theft of funds provided to GAMCOTRAP by a Spanish donor organisation, Yolocamba Solidaridad. The office of the prosecutor, represented by Superintendent Sainey Joof, did not proceed to cross examine Isatou Touray but applied instead for another adjournment. The presiding judge, Sherrif Tabally, agreed on the postponement and adjourned the case to 3 November 2011 at 9.30 am.
To view a short video of Dr Isatou Touray, click here
The two women human rights defenders were arrested on 11 October 2010 and charged with theft for the alleged embezzlement of €30,000 of GAMCOTRAP funding. While bail was initially refused, they were eventually released on 20 October 2010 upon a bail bond of 1.5 million Dalasi (€36,000) for Isatou Touray and 1 million 500 Dalasi for Amie Bojang Sissoho as well as a surety with a landed property.
Before their arrest and trial, in May 2010, the Office of the President set up a commission of inquiry to investigate GAMCOTRAP's use of its funding. The Commission concluded that the allegation of misappropriation of funds were unfounded. However, shortly after publication of the findings, members of the commission were dismissed.
During the trial, on 31 January 2011, the director of Yolocamba Solidaridad testified that they had not accused GAMCOTRAP of theft, nor reported them to the police or filed a complaint.
Front Line condemns what appears to be a delaying strategy which results in continued hindrance to the legitimate work of GAMCOTRAP. In addition to the frequent postponements and adjournments, three different judges have been assigned to preside over the trial since its opening.