British missionaries jailed in Gambia

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The Independent Online

A British couple who have spent the past 12 years working as Christian missionaries in the West African state of the Gambia have been jailed after being charged with sedition.

David Fulton, 60, and his wife Fiona, 46, were arrested last Saturday and have since been detained in separate locations. The couple appeared in court in the state capital of Banjul yesterday, accused of undermining the authority of the government. They have been offered bail, but so far have been unable to meet the strict conditions, which require them to provide four Gambian property owners willing to vouch for them.

Mr Fulton, a former British Army major originally from Troon in Scotland, is being held outside Banjul in a high-security prison known as Mile Two, a colonial jail built during the days of the British Empire.

Mrs Fulton, originally from Torquay, is being held with their two-year-old adopted daughter, Elizabeth, at a police station in the capital. A friend close to the couple said mother and daughter have so far been treated well by police, who have run errands to buy nappies for the child. The friend, who did not want to be named, said: “Fiona has been treated well. We are not sure about David. We don’t think he’s fared quite as well. He’s not eating.”

Mr Fulton works as a chaplain in the Gambian Army, while his wife looks after terminally ill people and spends time visiting women in hospital. The couple have two other children, Iona, 20, and Luke, 17, who live near Exeter with another family.

Another friend of the couple said: “While we are free to speak out, in Gambia you cannot. As a chaplain, part of David’s job is to provide comfort to all sorts of people, people high up and people low down – and people who have perhaps fallen out of favour.

“I don’t know of anything they have done that could be called sedition. Their whole focus has been teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sedition is a serious crime anywhere. The penalty would not be light. Obviously we are concerned. A lot of Christian people all over Britain and all over Europe are praying for them. We are just trusting the outcome will be good.”

The Foreign Office confirmed two British nationals had been arrested. A spokesman said: “Foreign Office consular staff have been in touch with the couple and are providing assistance.”

The Gambia, which has a population of 1.7 million, is constitutionally secular but most of the population are Muslim. It is ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, an army officer who seized power in 1994. His record on human rights and civil freedoms is questionable. Prisoners on similar charges to Mr Fulton have reportedly been poisoned while in jails.

According to reports, Mr Jammeh recently told supporters he would “cut off the head” of any homosexual caught in the Gambia. In the past, he has also claimed he could cure anyone with the Aids virus in three days.

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