Africa

Gambia court orders release of opposition leader, 18 others

  • Gambians celebrate the victory of opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow against longtime President Yahya Jammeh in the streets of Serrekunda, Gambia, Friday Dec. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

    Gambians celebrate the victory of opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow against longtime President Yahya Jammeh in the streets of Serrekunda, Gambia, Friday Dec. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)  (The Associated Press)

  • Ousainou Darboe, the head of the United Democratic Party, centre, arrives with 18 others for their hearing at Gambia's supreme court in Banjul, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. They had been arrested in April 2016 after they took part in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to three years in prison. The appeals court ordered their release on bail, just days after strongman ruler Yahya Jammeh agreed to step aside after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

    Ousainou Darboe, the head of the United Democratic Party, centre, arrives with 18 others for their hearing at Gambia's supreme court in Banjul, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. They had been arrested in April 2016 after they took part in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to three years in prison. The appeals court ordered their release on bail, just days after strongman ruler Yahya Jammeh agreed to step aside after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)  (The Associated Press)

  • Political prisoners, including Ousainou Darboe, the head of the United Democratic Party arrive for their hearing at Gambia's supreme court in Banjul,, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. They had been arrested in April 2016 after they took part in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to three years in prison. The appeals court ordered their release on bail, just days after strongman ruler Yahya Jammeh agreed to step aside after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

    Political prisoners, including Ousainou Darboe, the head of the United Democratic Party arrive for their hearing at Gambia's supreme court in Banjul,, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. They had been arrested in April 2016 after they took part in a peaceful demonstration and sentenced to three years in prison. The appeals court ordered their release on bail, just days after strongman ruler Yahya Jammeh agreed to step aside after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)  (The Associated Press)

An appeals court in Gambia has ordered the release of a top opposition politician and 18 others who were arrested after they took part in a peaceful protest earlier this year calling for political reforms.

The move comes just days after longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh agreed to step aside after losing a presidential election following 22 years in power.

Human rights groups say Jammeh's regime imprisoned and often killed political opponents.

Appeals court president Justice A.O. Adogoke said Monday that the prisoners would be granted bail but must have someone vouch for them and they must hand over their passports.

The 19 people now facing release stood up in the courtroom and sang the national anthem along with their lawyers and supporters.