Gambia releases two Amnesty staff on bail

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BANJUL, Oct 8 (Reuters) Gambian today released on bail two foreign workers from rights group Amnesty International, who were detained at the weekend on suspicion of spying when they attempted to visit a detained opposition politician.

Tania Bernath, who holds joint British and US citizenship, and Ayobele Ameen, a Nigerian, were released on payment of a 5,376 dollars bond but authorities retained their passports.

Gambian journalist Yaya Dampha, who works for opposition newspaper Foroyaa and was accompanying them on their trip, was also freed on bail.

The three were detained on Saturday some 275 km east of the capital Banjul. They had been hoping to visit Ousman Rambo Jatta, a member of the opposition United Democratic Party who was arrested during elections last year and has been in detention in the town of Fatoto ever since.

The two British-based employees of Amnesty International had travelled to the West African country to hold a human rights workshop for journalists and civil society groups.

The former British colony, a tiny slither of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal, has a poor record on human rights.

President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the country of 1.5 million people since seizing power in a bloodless military coup in 1994.

Human rights groups accuse him of jailing his opponents, political repression, and rigging polls -- including a landslide victory last year. He denies the charges.

His administration has detained a number of journalists over the years and media freedom watchdogs accuse it of failing to fully investigate the 2004 death of a leading independent newspaper editor shot dead in his car on the way home from work.


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