Gambia Leader Replaces Minister With Coup Plotter

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has fired his interior minister and replaced him with a military officer previously convicted of plotting a coup against him, in the latest unpredictable move from the west African strongman.

A press release read over state television on Sunday night said longtime minister Ousman Sonko would be replaced “with immediate effect” by Momodou Alieu Bah, who helped mount a 2006 coup against Jammeh.

Jammeh has fended off several attempted coups since coming to power in 1994 via the same method.

Bah had previously served as finance director for the Gambia’s armed forces, and hails from Lamin, a village close to the capital, Banjul.

He was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2006 following the attempted overthrow but granted amnesty in 2010 after he testified during the trial of the chief of defence staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba.

Bah’s sacked predecessor Sonko was previously a member of the presidential guard and protected Jammeh when he was threatened with a separate coup attempt in 2000, rather than joining other guards mounting an insurrection.

Sonko had served as interior minister since 2006 except for his brief 2012 appointment as ambassador to Spain — a decision that Jammeh reversed one week later.

Sonko’s profile was still available to view on the Gambian government’s website on Monday, but had disappeared by the evening.

Last week the United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was “alarmed” by reports of violence against protesters, and the torture and unexplained deaths of detainees in the Gambia, warning of “serious repercussions of any further decline in the situation”.

Jammeh is expected to win a fifth term in a December election, and his regime is regularly accused by rights groups of arranging the forcible disappearance of opponents.

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Turkey Accuses EU Of ‘Encouraging’ Coup Plotters

Turkey accused the EU on Wednesday of “encouraging” the plotters on the night of the July 15 coup in an escalating row that has raised questions over Ankara’s future relationship with the bloc.

A day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a highly-symbolic visit to Russia, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkish people’s confidence in the EU had “unfortunately fallen” in the wake of the coup, saying the bloc “failed a test” on the night of the putsch.

“Let me say openly, this is because the EU adopted a favourable position to the coup (and) encouraged the putschists,” the minister told reporters during a televised briefing in the capital Ankara without expanding further.

He claimed support for the EU — which Turkey has sought to join since the 1960s — had plummeted to some 20 percent.

Relations between Brussels and Ankara have become increasingly strained since Turkey launched a crackdown, imprisoning and dismissing tens of thousands within the military, judiciary and education in the wake of the putsch which it has blamed on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The EU has urged Ankara to act within the rule of law while condemning Erdogan for suggesting the country could bring back the death penalty, abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey’s reforms to join the union.

Ankara has expressed astonishment that no EU official has visited Turkey in the wake of the coup.

Cavusoglu’s comments came a day after Erdogan travelled to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin for the first time since Ankara downed one of Moscow’s warplanes in November, triggering a diplomatic crisis between them.

It was his first foreign trip since the failed coup, but the foreign minister said it was not a move to turn Turkey’s focus to the East.

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8 Turkish Coup Plotters Request Asylum In Greece

A Turkish military helicopter landed in Greece Saturday carrying eight officers seeking asylum after a coup bid, Greek police said.

The Black Hawk chopper arrived after sending a distress signal to authorities at the airport in Alexandroupolis in the country’s north.

Seven of those on board were in military uniform and all are believed to have been involved in the attempted putsch, ERT TV said. Athens News Agency said the asylum seekers comprised three majors, three captains and two sergeant majors.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had asked Athens to send back the eight.

“We have requested Greece to extradite the eight traitors as soon possible,” Cavusoglu was quoted as telling HaberTurk television.

According to an official in the Greek National Defence General Staff, “the helicopter is scheduled to be sent back immediately to Turkey”.

“As far as the asylum seekers are concerned, we are going to proceed according to the international law” Olga Gerovassili, the Greek government spokeswoman, said.

She said Athens was “in constant contact with the Turkish authorities”, and would take into account the fact that “the asylum seekers took part in a coup against the Turkish constitution”.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras early Saturday expressed his “support for the democratically elected” Turkish government.

Credit: Guardian