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Former Gambian editor acquitted

afrol News, 28 May - The former editor of the pro-government 'Daily Observer' newspaper has been acquitted and discharged on two counts of publishing and broadcasting false information.

Magistrate Kayode Olajubutu of the Banjul Magistrates faulted the prosecution of woefully failing to establish a prima facie case against Mam Sait Ceesay.

On 9 September 2007, state security agents arrested Mr Ceesay and Malick Jones, a journalist with the state-owned 'Gambia Radio and Television Services' and held them incommunicado for three days over the reported replacement of Ebrima J.T. Kujabi, President Yahya Jammeh's Director of Press and Public Affairs.

Ceesay, also a former Press Officer at the Office of the President, was accused of masterminding the publication of the story. He was arraigned and charged with publishing and broadcasting false infromation on 25 February 2008.

During the trial, Mr Jones was turned into a principal prosecution witness who testified against Ceesay. The former sacked Managing Director of 'Daily Observer', Dr Saja Taal, also testified in favour of the state. But the court found no reason to punish Ceesay whose only crime was to send a text message to the paper, asking whether Mr Kujabi was indeed replaced. He was saved by the question mark on the text message.

Shortly before Ceesay became a free man, Jones was arrested and briefly held by the police. His arrest was later blamed on "mistaken identity."

In another development, Magistrate Buba Jawo of Kanifing had adjourned the ongoing sedition case against Fatou Jaw Manneh to 23 June in order to give the defence and prosecution ample time to make their final submission.

Ms Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist and former 'Daily Observer' reporter, was arrested and detained for a week upon arrival in The Gambia before standing trial on three counts of sedition, which stemmed from a series of articles she had authored criticising the Jammeh regim. Her travel documents were confiscated by Gambian authorities.

The case has suffered so many setbacks thus denying Ms Manneh the right to know her fate, let alone return to the United States.

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