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Gambia's Ex-Spy Chief Sentenced to Death for Murder

FILE - People with a white paper covering their mouth and a t-shirt reading "enough is enough" demonstrate in Dakar on April 22, 2016, against the alleged human rights violations in Gambia.

A Gambian court on Wednesday sentenced a former spy head and four other individuals to death after they were found guilty of the 2016 murder of a political activist.

Yankuba Badjie, a former director general of the now-defunct National Intelligence Agency, was found guilty along with the other former intelligence personnel of killing activist Ebrima Solo Sandeng.

After leading a protest in April 2016, Sandeng, a member of the opposition United Democratic Party, was arrested and killed at the intelligence agency's offices in Banjul, the nation's capital. His death sparked an outpouring of dissent that assisted in Jammeh's removal during presidential elections later that year.

Fatoumata Sandeng, the daughter of the slain activist, said Thursday that the court has set a good precedent with this sentencing.

“After six good years, the court has finally set an example,” she told The Associated Press while struggling to contain her emotions. “The case being wrapped up with a maximum sentence shows that no matter how long it takes, justice will always prevail.”

The intelligence agency's former operations chief, Sheikh Omar Jeng, along with officials Baboucarr Sallah, Masireh Tamba and Lamin Darboe were also given death sentence, which will be converted to life in prison, as Gambia has suspended the death penalty since 2018.

Another accused, Haruna Suso, was absolved from any wrongdoing and was released and discharged by the court.

The convictions are an important step in holding former officials accountable for abuses during Jammeh's rule, said rights activists.

Jammeh lost the 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow and initially refused to step down. But confronted by widespread demonstrations against him and the threat of military action by neighboring West African countries, Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017.

Barrow’s administration has taken recommendations from a truth and reconciliation commission and said it seeks to prosecute Jammeh and those in his government for crimes committed during his rule that began in 1994.