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Germany charges Gambian suspected of link to AFP reporter murder

Germany has charged a Gambian man with being part of an army unit that carried out assassinations on behalf of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The suspect, named as Bai L., is accused of crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder, including the 2004 killing of an AFP journalist.

Bai L. allegedly worked as a driver for a hit squad known as the Junglers between December 2003 and December 2006.

“This unit was used by the then president of Gambia to carry out illegal killing orders, among other things” with the aim of “intimidating the Gambian population and suppressing the opposition,” prosecutors in the city of Karlsruhe said.

The tiny West African state was ruled by Jammeh for 22 years before he fled in 2017 after losing a presidential election to Adama Barrow, a relative unknown.

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The case is being brought on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.

Germany has been particularly active in pursuing such cases linked to the Syrian regime, and in January sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for crimes against humanity.

– Call for justice –

Bai L., identified by German media as Bai Lowe, is accused of involvement in the attempted murder of a lawyer in 2003 and the murder in 2004 of a Gambian journalist who had been critical of the government.

The journalist was Deyda Hydara, editor and co-founder of the independent daily The Point and a long-time correspondent for AFP.

“AFP welcomes any progress in the investigation into the murder of Deyda Hydara, its correspondent in The Gambia for over 30 years,” said Phil Chetwynd, global news director of AFP.

“We continue to call for justice to be done against the killers of our colleague who paid with his life for his fight for press freedom.”

In a third incident in around 2006, the accused drove members of the unit to a site near Banjul airport where they shot and killed a suspected opponent of the president, the prosecutors said.

The suspect was arrested in Hanover in March 2021 and has since been in pre-trial detention.

Trial International, an NGO which has provided evidence in the case, said the indictment was “meaningful in several ways.”

“It would lead to the opening of the first trial based on universal jurisdiction to judge the atrocities committed under Jammeh’s regime,” Philip Grant, its executive director, said in a statement.

“And it would allow to shed light on the paramilitary unit of the Junglers and their ties to the former president, further preparing the ground for his prosecution,” Grant said. AFP