By MUHAMMED S. BAH

Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia who was held in police custody since Wednesday was freed yesterday morning.

His release came in the midst of a potential protest to demand for his release as a crowd gathered beside the Banjul police station yesterday morning.

Activists and students who came to show solidarity to Dr. Ceesay carried banners calling for his release. Some of them were heard saying that Gambia has passed the stage where citizens cannot freely express themselves. Later the armed PIU, were seen on the ground to disperse the crowd.

Upon his release Dr Ceesay proceeded to a meeting of civil society organisations which had been scheduled earlier while he was in detention in order to deal with his situation. The meeting passed a resolution which drew the conclusion that the arrest is unlawful, and contrary to sections 19 and 25, of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia.

The resolution also stated that Dr. Ceesay had exercised his right to free expression well within international human rights protocols to which The Gambia is a signatory.

The resolution further called for engaging the Inspector General of police and the Executive.

They also agreed to make sure that the CSO coalition serves as a pressure group.

The CSOs also agreed to take to the street to protest the unlawful arrest of Dr Ceesay to ensuring that such things do not reoccur in this new Gambia.

The CSOs also demanded an immediate apology for the unlawful arrest of Dr. Ceesay.

The CSOs together with Dr. Ceesay will be having a press conference today Friday.

In another development, several organisations/associations issued statements while Dr Ceesay was in detention calling for his immediate release. The University of The Gambia Faculty and Staff Association described the arrest as a blatant affront on his civic right and a threat to academic and freedom of expression in the country. Their statement went further to state: The CSOs noted, “The change that Gambians envisaged in December 2016, is a nation where citizens can express their opinion on national issues such as development, education, security, and democracy without fear of harassment from anyone. The Gambian people did not sacrifice their lives for a change of face in the December 2016 Presidential Election but a change that guarantees all and sundry to enjoy their rights and liberty in their country with dignity.”

The Young Journalists Association of The Gambia condemned the arrest and called for his immediate and unconditional release. It went on to say, “it was entirely his opinion as a citizen of the Gambia which he is entitled to. Section 25 (1) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia guarantees freedom of speech and expression. It also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom.”

The Institute of Human Rights and Development also added its voice: “IHRDA finds this act of Government in contravention of the rights protected under the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to personal liberty, which are equally protected under regional and international treaties to which The Gambia is a party.”
It called on Government of The Gambia to respect its human rights obligations, and to continue taking steps towards upholding democratic values in the New Gambia.

Article 19 West Africa office for its part stated that Dr. Ceesay had exercised his right to free expression which is within international human rights protocols to which The Gambia is a party.

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