(By ABDOULIE JOHN)
BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — The remains of a Gambian opposition activist, whose death last year sparked a series of protests that were once rare in this small West African country, have been exhumed by a team of investigators, police said Wednesday.
Solo Sandeng, the youth leader for the United Democratic Party, was arrested April 14 for spearheading a peaceful demonstration demanding electoral reforms ahead of December elections. Sandeng was allegedly tortured by security forces and died after the arrest.
His remains were exhumed Saturday “by a team of investigators in the presence of his son Muhammed Sandeng and his brother Famara Sandeng,” police spokesman Foday Conta said. He said the remains are at a teaching hospital “for medical examination so as to establish the actual cause of his death and help the police in their investigations.”
Sandeng’s death was a rallying point for the opposition, sparking further protests that led to the arrest of more activists.
Protests were rare in Gambia before elections last year that saw President Yahya Jammeh, who ruled for more than 22 years, lose the presidential vote to the opposition coalition’s candidate, Adama Barrow.
Jammeh rejected the election results, but finally flew into exile in January amid international pressure. His government had been accused of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings of opponents.
After Barrow’s presidential victory, many opposition activists were released from prison.
Last month, nine former high-ranking officers at the National Intelligence Agency allegedly linked to Sandeng’s death were arrested and charged with murder by a Gambian court.
Conta, the police spokesman, said the former director of operations for that agency, the body known to imprison Jammeh’s opponents, led investigators to the site where Sandeng was buried in the coastal fishing village of Tanji.
Associated Press writer Mustapha Jallow in Banjul, Gambia, contributed to this report.