A middle-aged British couple was sentenced Tuesday to one year’s hard labor in Gambia after pleading guilty to sedition in the tiny West African nation.

David Fulton, 60, and his wife Fiona, 46, who were arrested in Banjul in November, were also fined $9,400.

The couple was working as Christian missionaries in the mainly Muslim country, which sits within Senegal on Africa’s west coast. Hoping for a lenient sentence they pleaded guilty to writing e-mails which mentioned the government, but denied any criminal intent, during a court appearance on Christmas Eve.

Members of their family say that the couple is not entirely sure how they broke the law, but they believe it may have been the round robin e-mails they regularly sent to friends and people who supported their charity work.

As the judge read out the sentence, the couple and some of their friends present in court burst into tears.

Idrissa Mbai, the presiding magistrate said: “I found the offenses of the accused party to be very shocking and they have shown no respect for the country, the government and the president of the republic. I will send a clear message to the offenders.”

He said that a failure to pay the fine would result in another six-months in prison. The couple, who have three children including a two-year-old adopted daughter, have been incarcerated since their arrest a month ago because they were unable to afford the bail payment.

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.