Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Delay to missionary workers' case

Dave and Fiona Fulton
Mr and Mrs Fulton are being held in separate prisons

A Scottish missionary and his wife due to appear in court in The Gambia on sedition charges have had their case adjourned, the BBC understands.

David and Fiona Fulton were arrested in the African country two weeks ago and held in a high security jail.

Jim Rae, a friend of the couple, told BBC Scotland their court appearance had been postponed until 24 December.

Mr Fulton, 60, from Troon, in Ayrshire, and Mrs Fulton, 46, from Torquay, Devon, are Christian missionaries.

They were arrested on 29 November after being accused of undermining the government of The Gambia. Mr Fulton had been working as a chaplain in the mainly Muslim country's army.

Mr Rae said he had had little contact with the couple since their arrest, but had been told the court appearance was being delayed to allow a solicitor to travel from England to represent the couple.

He said that Mrs Fulton had originally been held in the police headquarters in the capital Banjul with the couple's two-year-old adopted daughter, but had since been moved to a prison. The child is being cared for by associates of Mr and Mrs Fulton's Bible study group.

Mr Fulton, who has lived in The Gambia for 12 years, is being held in a different prison, where he is either refusing to eat or unable to eat.

There is always a sense of irony in Dave's letters and stuff like that, but it is not satirical
Jim Rae

Mr Rae said: "It's terrible now. I just don't know what's going to happen. It's so unpredictable.

"The feeling is that they are all being kept in the dark. He (Mr Fulton) could be facing a jail sentence, it could be deportation.

"Hopefully he will be sent home to regroup, to rethink."

David Fulton (far left), Fiona Fulton (centre), Jim Rae (fourth from left)
The couple worked with pastors in The Gambia

Mr Fulton, a former army major, is said to have been writing a book which is expected to be used against him in the trial.

But Mr Rae said: "It is not about the government that he was writing - he is writing a book about his life story, most of which I have read and some of it is highly entertaining but I never read anything about how the government operates or anything like that."

However, Mr Rae said the book did touch on the difficulties "of being a missionary, or of being anyone out there, trying to do good."

The prosecution has accused the couple of writing letters to individuals and groups abroad to "bring into hatred or contempt, to excite disaffection" against the Gambian president. Mr and Mrs Fulton deny the charges.

The Gambia is one of Africa's smallest countries and has been ruled by President Yahya Jammeh since he seized power in 1994.

President Jammeh's government has been criticised by international rights groups for its attitude to civil liberties, especially freedom of the press.

The country has a secular constitution, but its population is 90% Muslim.

The Foreign Office has said it was providing consular assistance to Mr and Mrs Fulton.

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