Gambia president OKs American captives' release after meeting with Jesse Jackson

Reverend helps save U.S. prisoners in Gambia


The president of The Gambia has decided to extend his moratorium on death sentences, indefinitely, after meeting Monday afternoon with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jackson had travelled to Gambia to urge President Yayha Jammeh to reconsider his August announcement to execute every person on Gambia's death row.

"There were 46 people on death row. Nine were summarily executed by the firing squad. Thirty-seven were scheduled to die imminently," Jackson told Fox News. "Rainbow/Push (Jackson's organization) intervened on humanitarian grounds, and I am delighted that their lives have been spared."

Jammeh also has agreed to release into Jackson's custody Tuesday two Gambian-American prisoners. Jackson plans to escort out them out of the country immediately.   

"It will be a special joy to be able to bring two Americans back home to their families," Jackson said.

One of the men is Amadou Scattred Janneh. He is a former University of Tennessee professor who also served as Gambia's minister of communications. He was arrested in July 2011 for printing T-shirts that read "Coalition for Change" and "End Dictatorship Now" on the front and "Freedom" on the back.

He was convicted of treason and started serving his life sentence in January.

The other is Tamsir Jassey, an Operation Desert Storm veteran who also served as Gambia's director general of immigration.

He was convicted of treason and sentenced to 20 years after being arrested for driving to the Senegal border a man suspected of trying to overthrow President Jammeh in a coup. He's been in prison 5 years.

The U.S. State Department is working quickly to process the paperwork necessary for the Americans' release.

"Mr. Jackson came as a private citizen," U.S. Ambassador Edward "Ned" Alford said. "We very much welcome his visit. He has a good track record of doing humanitarian interventions, and this is another one."

This will be the sixth time Jackson has helped to free captive Americans. The others were in Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Liberia.