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American prisoners set to leave Gambia after Jesse Jackson meets with president

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    Sept. 18, 2012: The Rev. Jesse Jackson with Amadou Janneh and Tamsir Jasseh on the flight to the U.S.Fox News

  • Jesse Jackson Gambia.jpg

    Sept. 17, 2012: The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with Gambian President Yayha JammehCourtesy Butch Wing, Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Haddy Jasseh, who lives with her two children in Gambia, had heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson was in the country.

"I told my friend, I just want to meet that guy," the 42-year-old woman told Fox News. "It would be my happiest day."

Thirty minutes after saying that, at 8 p.m. Monday, her phone rang. It was the U.S. Embassy in Gambia calling to tell her Jackson had secured the release of her husband, an American citizen, from a Gambian prison.

"I started crying," Jasseh told Fox News, "I hung up the phone and ran barefoot into the street, going house to house, telling everyone."

She told the news to the couple's sons, Madou, 13, and Ousman, 9.

"Madou started crying and got all dressed up," the mother said. "He put on his brand new sneakers." Her younger son, who was just 4 years old when his father was imprisoned, ran to the family car saying, "I want to go to Daddy."

Their father, Tamsir Jasseh, is a Gambian-American who served in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm. He later moved to Gambia, becoming the country's director general of immigration. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to 20 years for taking to the Senegal border a man suspected of trying to overthrow Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Tamsir Jasseh has served five of his 20-year sentence.

Jasseh and another Gambian-American man, Amadou Scattred Janneh, will be released to Jackson's custody Tuesday night. Janneh, a University of Tennessee professor and Gambia's former director of communications, was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison after printing anti-government T-shirts. They read "Coalition for Change" and "End Dictatorship Now," with the word "Freedom" on the back. He was also accused of contact with intelligence agents.

They are scheduled to arrive in New York City on Wednesday, and each plans to settle again in the United States.

The prisoners' release comes after Jackson appealed to President Jammeh in a face-to-face meeting Monday.

"We came here to urge President Jammeh to extend the moratorium on death sentences and in researching decided to ask for the release of these men as well," Jackson told Fox News on Tuesday.

Jammeh last month ordered the execution of all 46 death row inmates. Nine were shot by a firing squad. The remaining 37 lives will be spared, for now. The Gambian government says the president's decision could be revisited if Gambia's murder rate increases.

U.S. Ambassador Edward "Ned" Alford told Fox News that Jackson's visit and the release of these prisoners is a feel-good story at a much needed time, as anti-American protests are flaring up in other predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Gambia is 90 percent Muslim, but Alford says there is minimal tension with Christians. The entire country publicly celebrates both Eid and Christmas. Alford said Gambia could be a good model for other Muslim countries to follow.