FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The State Department says it's closely monitoring Gambia's detention of a U.S. citizen from Maryland who was arrested during an anti-government demonstration while visiting her native country in April.
Although Fanta Darboe Jawara has family connections to Gambia's main opposition party, her husband said Wednesday she was a bystander when she was arrested April 16 near the capital city of Banjul. Ebrima Jawara provided a copy of what appeared to be his wife's sworn statement to police saying she was returning from a banking errand when she was arrested and beaten.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a June 1 press briefing that Fanta, 45, participated in the protest. Her uncle Ousainou Darboe, a leader of the opposition United Democratic Party, was also among those arrested while protesting the detention of other party members, three of whom later died, according to the United Nations.
Both the State Department and Fanta's husband say they're concerned about her treatment in the prison where she's being held by the government of President Yahya Jammeh. Fanta's husband is a grandson of Jammeh's predecessor, Dawda Jawara, who was ousted in a 1994 military coup. Human rights groups criticize Jammeh and say he tortures opponents and persecutes gays.
The Washington Post reported that Fanta Jawara is charged with unlawful assembly; rioting; inciting violence; riotously interfering with traffic; holding a procession without a license; disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession; and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Ebrima Jarawa, an auto repair technician, says he and his wife came to the United States in 1990. They have two daughters, ages 17 and 12, at their home in Frederick, about 45 miles west of Baltimore.
He told The Frederick News-Post he has difficulty sleeping because he's so worried about his wife.
"We need her back," he said.