Swiss court sentences ex-Gambian minister to 20 years in jail

The Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland on Wednesday convicted former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Among other things, the court writes in its statement that it considers it proven that Sonko was an accomplice in the deliberate killing of a soldier suspected of being involved in a coup in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, in January 2000.

The court also considers it proven that he was complicit in the torture and unlawful deprivation of liberty of military personnel, politicians and journalists in connection with a coup attempt in Banjul in March 2006 and the murder of a former member of parliament in October 2011.

It also mentioned that the torture and sexual crimes against journalists, opposition members or suspected coup participants were committed by the paramilitary unit Junglers on the orders of various leaders, including the defendant.

The acts charged by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland occurred between January 2000 and September 2016. He was mainly accused of acting in collaboration with the then president of the West African country, Yahya Jammeh, as well as leaders of the security forces and the prison service.

It was possible to charge and convict Sonko in Switzerland as he had entered the country as an asylum seeker in 2016. Prior to this, in September 2016, then Gambian President Yahya Jammeh had dismissed his long-serving Interior Minister Sonko.

Sonko lived undisturbed in Switzerland until his arrest in January 2017. He has been in custody since then.

The trial against Sonko marks the first time that a former interior minister has been tried for crimes against humanity in Switzerland.

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