GAMBIA ( west africa ) - The family of British missionaries arrested and charged with sedition in the Gambia spoke about their fears for the couple yesterday, claiming they were being kept in poor conditions.
David Fulton, 60, and his wife Fiona, 46, who moved to the former British colony 12 years ago, were charged this week with distributing "seditious" reports about the west African country.
Prosecutors accused the couple of writing to individuals and organisations outside the country to "bring hatred or contempt, to excite disaffection against the president of the republic and the government of Gambia".
The couple have reportedly been offered bail of £125,000 each, which they are unable to pay. Peter McMinn, 80, said his son-in-law has been held in squalid conditions in a high security prison since his arrest last Saturday, with eight toilets shared between hundreds of inmates.
The couple had been attacked three times in the street for preaching their beliefs prior to their arrest, he said. "They threw stones at him and attacked him with bits of wood. He was very shaken."
Fiona's brother Stuart McMinn, 40, a computer engineer, said the couple had were aware of the risk of preaching in the Gambia. "I've heard stories about people languishing in these prisons for years without a trial. They knew the risks about being out there but they thought the good they could do outweighed that risk."
Trying to get information about the welfare of the couple had been problematic. "We hear rumblings but nothing concrete. I think we'll know more on December 16 which I gather will be a significant date in the proceedings," he said.
He added that Fulton, who before his arrest worked as a chaplain in the Gambian army, was weak because he had refused to eat the food supplied by prison staff, fearing it had been poisoned.
He is being held in the Mile Two prison outside the capital, Banjul; his wife is with their daughter at a police station in the capital.
McMinn said the charges were false, and the couple had been targeted for "spreading the word of Jesus Christ". The couple reportedly met while Mr Fulton was serving time for armed robbery in Channings Wood jail, Devon, and Mrs Fulton was visiting to talk to inmates about Christianity. He converted to Christianity and became a missionary.
Fulton, a former British army major, established a branch of the Christian organisation Prison Fellowship International in the Gambia after moving to the country with his wife and two children.
According to an article in Prison Fellowship International in August 2004, he was banned from the Gambian prison system when an inmate claimed he was trying to convert prisoners. He was subsequently offered the position of chaplain to the Gambian military.
Freedom of speech has been curtailed in the Gambia since President Yahya Jammeh seized control of the country in 1994, according to civil rights groups.