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Trial of key Gambian death squad suspect under Jammeh opens in Germany

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German prosecutors have opened trial in a case of “crimes against humanity and murder” against a member of an infamous death squad in Gambia during the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh.

The suspect was arrested in the German city of Hanover in March 2021 and is appearing in court in the nearby town of Celle.

The accused, who was said to be a prominent member of the squad, and put to trial on Monday, is accused of belonging to a death squad that killed thousands of Gambians during Jammeh’s notorious regime.

The 46-year-old unnamed suspect is also accused of being involved in at least two murders and an attempted murder while working as a driver for the notorious assassination squad known as “The Junglers,” a special death squad which was used by Jammeh to silence his opponents, between 2003 and 2006.

German federal prosecutors claim the unit was used by Jammeh “to carry out illegal killing orders, among other things, including intimidating the Gambian population and suppressing the opposition.”

Among the crimes linked to the suspect is the 2004 killing of journalist Deyda Hydara, a 58-year-old correspondent for the news agency AFP who was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of the Gambian capital Banjul on December 16, 2004.

The case is the first in the world to see human rights violations committed in Gambia during the Jammeh era prosecuted on the basis of “universal jurisdiction.”

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, a country can prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they took place.

Jammeh who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, ruled the Gambia as the head of a military junta before transiting into a civilian president in 1996.

His 22-year-long rule was characterized by massive human rights violations, including assassination of percieved enemies and opposition figures before he was eventually forced to flee the country in 2017 after losing a 2016 election to current President Adama Barrow.

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Zambian government moves to retrieve body of student killed while fighting in Russia-Ukraine war

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Zambian authorities have resolved to send a delegation to Russia next week to retrieve the body of a 23-year-old Zambian student, Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, who died while fighting for the Russian military in Ukraine.

Nyirenda’s family and the government are, however, still waiting for answers from Moscow on how he was recruited into the army while serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia.

Spokesman for the Zambian Ministry of Information and Media, Thabo Kawana, who confirmed this in a statement on Saturday, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is spearheading efforts to bring the body of Nyirenda back to the country for burial.

“The government is also offering support during this trying moment and doing everything they can to arrange for the funeral and repatriation of the body back to Zambia,” Kawana said.

“Using our diplomatic channels and our all-weather cooperation between Russia and ourselves, we will be able to get to the bottom of this matter,” he added.

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Stanley Kakubo, at a press conference earlier in the week, said that Nyirenda who had been studying at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, was serving a nine-year prison sentence for a drug offense.

He said Nyirenda was killed on the front lines in September, but Russian authorities only just informed Zambia of the death while Zambia is demanding answers over the student’s death and why he had been sent to Ukraine.

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Algerian court sentences 49 people to death for lynching citizen over forest fires

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An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death for lynching and burning a citizen, Jamal Ben Ismail, and mutilating his body in the Kabylia region after he was wrongly accused him of causing a vast forest fire in which over 90 people were killed, the Algerian Press Service reports.

However, according to the Algerian moratorium on executions enacted in 1993, the sentences would be concerted to life imprisonment terms.

The report by the APS on Friday said the Casablanca Court of First Instance in Algiers, also handed down judgements “ranging from ten to two years enforceable imprisonment against 28 defendants, in addition to fines ranging from 100 to 200,000 Algerian dinars, while it acquitted 17 other defendants.”

“All the accused were prosecuted on multiple charges, particularly the offence of committing “terrorist acts and subversion against the state security and national unity, involvement in deliberate and premeditated murder.

“Other charges were assault with violence against members of the public force, dissemination of hate speech and incitement to destroy the property of others and armed gathering,” according to the APS.

Local media reports that the then 38-years-old Ismail, had voluntarily gone to a town in Tizi Ouzou in the northwest of the country to help extinguish forest fires.

“When he learned that some of the town’s residents suspected him of being involved in setting fires because he was a stranger to the region, he rushed to hand himself to the police, however, a large crowd of angry citizens snatched him from the hands of the police, tortured him, burned him alive and mutilated his body,” a media report said.

Some videos circulated on social media showed crowds surrounding the police car where Ben Ismail was held, they then dragged him out and started beating him.

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