Swiss take former Gambian minister Sonko into custody - media


 Reuters International

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss police detained former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko near the Swiss capital of Berne on Thursday, newspaper Berner Zeitung said on its website, citing police.

Swiss television programme Rundschau reported on Wednesday that Sonko, who had been interior minister under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, had been living in a home for asylum seekers near Berne for over two months.

Jammeh has denied allegations of torture and killing opponents while in power. But his repressive rule and a flagging economy saw thousands flee across the Sahara and Mediterranean to Europe each year

"(Berne police director Hans-Juerg) Kaeser confirmed on Thursday that the canton took the Gambian into custody in Lyss and is transferring him to a new location," Berner Zeitung said on its website. Kaeser declined to comment to Reuters.

Christof Scheurer of the Berne prosecutor's office would not confirm that Sonko had been taken into custody, but said the office had taken measures linked to a complaint filed against Sonko by non-governmental organisation Trial International.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said an asylum request had been received from a former member of the Gambian government, without naming Sonko.

"The SEM was aware of the case's significance when it started processing the asylum request and informed all relevant authorities," SEM spokesman Martin Reichlin said in an email.

Chloe Bitton, spokeswoman for Geneva-based Trial International, confirmed the NGO had filed a complaint against Sonko on Wednesday, hoping it would trigger proceedings in Switzerland that would help Gambia's democratic transition.

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Alison Williams)

Reuters

 Reuters International