Protesters were unarmed, did not resist arrest

Police in The Gambia have beaten to death a prominent opposition member after leading a peaceful protest in the West African nation calling for electoral reform and the resignation of its military strongman, President Yahya Jammeh to resign.

Solo Sandeng, the organizing secretary of the United Democratic Party was arrested with at least two dozen other protesters who were chanting anti-government slogans and placards by the country’s police intervention unit.

Eye witnesses said the protesters were unarmed and did not resist arrest but the police used force against them. Security sources and rights groups reported that Mr Sandeng has been tortured to death and two others are seriously injured and in a coma in detention.

"The tragic death in detention of Solo Sandeng must leave no space for impunity. The authorities must conduct an immediate, thorough and independent investigation," said Sabrina Mahtani of Amnesty International in a statement.

Rights groups call for unconditional release of protesters

Amnesty has called for The Gambia to “uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, especially in advance of the elections," and called for the authorities to release the protesters and provide immediate medical attention to those injured.

The United Democratic Party has filed a complaint at the Supreme Court over electoral irregularities including the illegality of Mr Mustapha Carayol being chairperson of the country’s electoral commission.

Shortly after, President Yahya Jammeh replaced Mr Carayol with an APRC stalwart, Mr Alieu M Njie, whose integrity the UDP Leader Ousainou Darboe said he won’t question.

Darboe and other UDP executive members are now demanding to see Mr Sandeng, dead or alive.

President Yahya Jammeh came to came to power in a military coup in 1994 and has since ruled the impoverished West African nation with an iron fist.

He is notorious for making eccentric statements threatening to behead gays and lesbians and that he can cure HIV/AIDS. He has vowed to remain in power “for a billion years” and swore that anyone who wants to replace him as president “must be willing to risk his life.”

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