Gambian president releases 174 prisoners

Banjul: Gambian President Adama Barrow has released 174 prisoners, a government official said.

The move was seen as a goodwill gesture from Barrow, whose inauguration on Saturday as the third president of The Gambia coincided with the 52nd independence anniversary.

The celebration of independence and inauguration was done in grand style, witnessed by six African heads of state and high profile representatives from outside the continent, including China and the US, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

The release of the prisoners came less than a week when a public outrage erupted over a video that exposed the conditions of the prisons when the new interior minister visited the prisons.

“We will improve the conditions of the prisons to meet international standards,” Interior Minister Mai Fatty told Xinhua.

“Prison reforms must happen. We intend to transform bad citizens into good citizens, unskilled into skilled citizens and uneducated into educated citizens,” he said, adding that some of the prisoners he met are very intelligent and the government should help them harness the potentials.

Conditions at the State Central Prisons are reported to be degrading and inhuman. In 2014, two UN Special Rapporteurs on prisons and torture were denied entry to the State Central Prisons.