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Asylum request Gambian ex-minister stays behind bars

Sonko first tried to obtain asylum in Sweden before entering Switzerland

(SRF)

A former Gambian interior minister who applied for asylum in Switzerland has been remanded in custody for at least three months. He is under investigation for suspected crimes against humanity.

Last week a Bernese court ordered the arrest of Ousman Sonko, who served under Yahya Jammeh, the dictator who ruled the West African country for 22 years. Sonko commanded an elite squad in Gambia notorious for its brutality. He was sacked by Jammeh and then fled for Europe. He has been living in an asylum centre in canton Bern since last November.

The court had to make a decision to either free him or investigate him 48 hours after his initial arrest. On Monday, it released its ruling that Sonko would remain in custody until investigations are complete into allegations of human rights abuses.

Sonko first tried to obtain asylum in Sweden back in September, before fleeing to Switzerland, where he filed an asylum application. He was in possession of a Swiss-issued Schengen visa granted several years ago following an invitation to attend a conference in Geneva. In line with the Dublin Accord, Switzerland took over his asylum case from Sweden on November 10, 2016 passing it on to canton Bern on November 14.

After his presence became known in Switzerland, the Geneva-based group TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint against him asking Bernese judicial authorities to prosecute Sonko for alleged brutality against opponents through detentions, beatings and killings.

The group asked for Sonko to be charged, as is allowable in Switzerland, under an international anti-torture treaty and the Swiss criminal code.

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swissinfo.ch and agencies/jd

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