Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Couple jailed for Gambia sedition

Dave and Fiona Fulton
Mr and Mrs Fulton were sentenced to one year with hard labour

A Scottish missionary and his wife, who pleaded guilty to sedition charges in Gambia, have been sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour.

David and Fiona Fulton were arrested last month after sending e-mails to groups and individuals which criticised the country's government.

The couple changed their original not guilty plea last week.

Fulton, 60, is from Troon in Ayrshire. His 46-year-old wife is from Torquay in Devon.

Last week the couple pleaded guilty to charges of sedition against the government of President Yahya Jammeh.

Hard labour

They issued a public apology but their remorse did not mollify the judge.

The Fultons admitted publishing e-mails with seditious comments with intent to bring hatred or contempt against the president or the government.

Presiding magistrate Idrissa Mbai said: "I found the offences of the accused party to be very shocking and they have shown no respect for the country, the government and the president of the republic. I will send a clear message to the offenders.

They've never said anything bad about anybody. They've just asked us to pray for people out there
Karen Hill, friend of the Fultons

"I therefore sentence you to a fine of 250,000 dalasis (about 6,250) and mandatory jail time of one year with hard labour."

If the couple do not pay the fine they face an additional six months in prison.

They can lodge an appeal within 20 days, but it was not clear if they would do so.

Karen Hill, who is a friend of the couple, said she was horrified by the sentence.

She told the BBC: "I am really shocked and very worried about them. I think they were hoping that they would get sent home, perhaps.

"They've never said anything bad about anybody. They've just asked us to pray for people out there that they're working with.

'Seeking clarity'

"Fiona worked with people who were terminally ill and Dave worked among people that he could reach in the villages on his boat - and in my emails, that I had, there was never anything said bad, so it's very hard to believe they could have done anything wrong really."

The tiny west African country inside Senegal, has been criticised in recent years for its human rights record.

Mr Jammeh, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler, has ruled the former British colony since seizing power in a 1994.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said consular staff had been providing assistance to the Fultons.

He said the Foreign Office was "seeking clarity" over what hard labour meant "in this context".

He added that it was a decision for the Fultons with their legal representative as to whether they appealed against the judgement.

The spokesman said that the couple's two-year-old daughter was being cared for by a family friend in the family home.

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