Missionaries in Gambia plead for pardon

By January 7, 2009

Gambia (MNN) — A British missionary couple sentenced to one year of hard labor for criticizing the Gambian leadership publicly apologized on Sunday and asked for clemency in a letter read on state television.

According to the International Christian Concern web site, in a letter read on state television, David and Fiona wrote, "We are grateful for the opportunity to be able to apologize publicly to His Excellency (President Yahya Jammeh) and humbly ask for what will graciously and compassionately show us clemency."

They added, "We humbly ask that the present proceeding be withdrawn and our passports be returned to us so that we may return to the United Kingdom with our little daughter Elizabeth on a first flight available to us."

The Fultons were arrested on sedition charges in Banjul in late November for allegedly criticizing Gambia in a series of e-mails related to their work in that predominantly-Muslim nation.

The couple was sentenced December 30 to one year in prison with hard labor and a fine of about $9,000. They were the first foreigners in recent Gambian history to face a prison sentence for sedition. "It was not our intention to excite hatred, dissatisfaction and contempt to the President or government of the Gambia. We humbly apologize, totally and unreservedly," the letter explained.

60-year-old David had served as a chaplain for the Gambian army and had a ministry on the river, which involved reaching villages only accessible by boat. His 46-year-old wife looked after terminally ill people.
According to the Gambian authorities, the couple was also running an educational center and provided free medical care for prison inmates.

Gambia is a tiny country inside Senegal and has one of the worst human rights records in West Africa. Jammeh, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler, has ruled the former British colony since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994.

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