Gambian man charged in US with torture of coup plotters

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Yahya Jammeh pictured in 2014.Image source, Corbis/Getty Images
Image caption,
Michael Sang Correa was part of an armed unit that reported to ex-President Yahya Jammeh (pictured)

A Gambian man living in the United States has been charged with torturing political prisoners in his home country following a failed coup in 2006.

Michael Sang Correa, 41, was a member of a feared paramilitary unit known as the "Junglers".

Mr Correa is said to have entered the US in 2016 as bodyguard for Gambia's vice-president on a trip to the UN but did not return home.

Soon afterwards, President Jammeh lost the presidential election. He initially tried to extend his 22-year rule but was forced out when West African countries sent troops to the tiny nation.

How was Correa found?

Mr Correa was working as a labourer in the city of Denver before he was arrested and detained by immigration officials a year ago, according to Colorado's top prosecutor Jason Dunn.

Mr Correa has briefly appeared in court in the US on one count of conspiracy to commit torture and six counts of inflicting torture.

"As federal prosecutors, our mission is to seek out injustice and to hold accountable those who perpetuate it, regardless of where it occurs," said Mr Dunn.

He said the Gambian national was charged under a federal law that has only been use twice before, allowing foreigners suspected of committing torture in other countries to be prosecuted in the US.

"We are not only holding accountable a man who has allegedly committed horrific acts of torture against his own people, but demonstrating to the people of The Gambia, and indeed the entire world, that the United States stands for the rule of law and against those who abuse human rights," he told reporters.

Who are the Junglers?

The notorious military unit took direct orders from former President Jammeh during his rule, operating outside the army's chain of command.

More details about their activities have come to light during hearings at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) set up to investigate human rights violations committed during Mr Jammeh's rule.

Media caption,

'I refused to marry Yahya Jammeh - then he raped me'

"Our team was a hit squad for Yahya Jammeh," Amadou Badjie, an assassin for the Junglers, told the commission last year.

"We had blind loyalty for Yahya Jammeh."

He and two other assassins accused Mr Jammeh of ordering numerous murders, including the 2013 killings of two US-Gambian businessmen and veteran local journalist Deyda Hydara.

What is Correa accused of doing?

When an attempted coup against the president failed in 2006 it was the Junglers, with Michael Sang Correa allegedly among them, who set about finding the perpetrators.

People suspected of involvement were "subjected to severe physical and mental abuses" at Mile 2 Prison and the National Intelligence Agency headquarters, court documents from Mr Correa's case in the US allege.

US prosecutors accuse Mr Correa and co-conspirators of abuses including electrocuting victims' genitals, beating them with hammers and firearms, pouring molten plastic and acid on some, and suspending one victim from the ground in a rice bag in order to beat them.

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