Tears as British couple get year's hard labour
Gambian judge makes an example of Christians who criticised Muslim state
Wednesday 31 December 2008
Two British missionaries broke down and wept as they were sentenced to a year's hard labour in jail after pleading guilty to charges of sedition. Relatives and friends of David and Fiona Fulton, who have three children – including a two-year-old adopted daughter – expressed their dismay and horror at the severity of the punishment handed down to the couple from Torquay by a court in Gambia.
The judge quoted from an email sent in September, entitled "Hell In The Gambia," in which the country, which is 97 per cent Muslim, is described as "sinking fast into a morass of Islam". The couple face imprisonment at the country's high-security Mile Two jail. It houses some of the state's toughest inmates – including some women. Malaria and beriberi are reported to be prevalent there.
The Foreign Office is seeking clarification over details of the sentence and where the couple will serve it. One report suggested they could be billetted to work on peanut plantations, where malaria is common. Conditions inside the jail, a British prison during colonial times, are said to be harsh. Prisoners say they are routinely exposed to malaria and afterwards are refused treatment. According to a recent Amnesty International report, some inmates rely on provisions brought in by their families in order to survive. Some die from beriberi, an illness associated with poor diet.
The presiding magistrate in the case, Idrissa Mbai, said that he intended the sentence to deter others seeking to criticise the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who has cracked down on dissent in the wake of a series of coup attempts.
"I found the offences of the accused party to be very shocking. They have shown no respect for the country, the government and the president of the republic. I will send a clear message to the offenders," he said. He also imposed fines of £6,250 on each of the defendants. Failure to pay will result in an additonal six months in prison, he said. The Fultons have 20 days to appeal against the sentence, their lawyer, Antouman Gaye, said.
Mr Fulton, 60, a former British Army major and Mrs Fulton, 46, were arrested on 29 November after a former associate handed over round-robin e-mails allegedly criticising the government. They pleaded guilty to the charges and apologised, hoping to earn a more lenient sentence.
Mile Two Prison: The harsh reality
The Fultons are likely to be jailed in Mile Two prison of which Amnesty has said: "The harsh conditions – overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and foul food – can in themselves be considered a form of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment." One former inmate, known as Sheriff, 34, told investigators: "People are dying every day. It is due to the food mostly. They served us expired rice and other food that is rotten. So many people are getting beriberi and dying." The jail was built by the British.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Hurricane Gonzalo: When will it hit the UK and how strong will it be?
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...