Two Gambian soldiers jailed for coup plot

Adama Barrow, president of The Gambia, wants to serve a five-year term after initially vowing to step down after three (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO) (AFP/File)

Banjul (Gambia) (AFP) - Two Gambian soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the government of President Adama Barrow were sentenced to three years in jail by a court martial, the military said on Wednesday.

The pair had used a Whatsapp chat group called "The True Friends" to discuss ways of staging a coup with other members of the Gambian army while on a 2017 peacekeeping mission in Darfur in Sudan, the military court at Yumdum barracks heard during proceedings.

"Two soldiers were today convicted and sentenced to three-years imprisonment on various criminal offences," army spokesperson Major Lamin Sanyang told AFP.

Barrow took office in January 2017 after a shock election win against former president Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the tiny West African state for 22 years.

Jammeh, whose regime was accused of torture, murder and rape by human rights activists, later left for Equatorial Guinea.

"My clients were convicted of mutiny and conspiracy to commit mutiny. They have been dismissed from The Gambia Armed Forces with disgrace," said defence barrister Omar Susso from the National Legal Aid Agency.

"We are considering filing an appeal at The Gambia Court of Appeal. We will study the judgment and see what our grounds of appeal would be. We will advise them accordingly," he said.

Susso said he hoped the two soldiers, Sulayman Badjie and Lamin Kujabi, would now be transferred to prison from the Yundum barracks, about 25 kilometres from the capital Banjul.

In May, a Gambian military court sentenced seven other soldiers to nine years in jail for plotting to overthrow Barrow, and handed a three-year prison term to another.