Scottish missionaries imprisoned in The Gambia
International Christian Concern called on the Gambian Government to grant clemency to David and Fiona Fulton, who were sentenced in December to one year’s hard labour and fined £6,500 after admitting to publishing emails with seditious comments with intent to bring hatred or contempt against the president or the government.
The couple have been missionaries in The Gambia since 1999, spreading the Gospel and doing humanitarian work, and David Fulton is a chaplain for the Gambian army.
Following the verdict, the Fultons wrote a letter to the Gambian president apologising for any comments that may have caused offence. Their appeal for clemency has so far been ignored.
Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in Bolton was one of the churches financially supporting the Fultons in their work to spread Christianity in The Gambia.
Read on in Christianity Today...
The Fultons have sent their two-year-old adopted daughter back to the UK, a family friend said yesterday. David and Fiona Fulton were arrested in the West African nation in November after sending round-robin e-mails that allegedly criticised its government.
A letter apparently written by the Fultons in which they pleaded for clemency and asked to be allowed to return to Britain was broadcast on Gambian state television at the weekend.
According to a Gambian newspaper, it read in part: "We humbly apologise totally and unreservedly and without exception for anything and everything we have said that has caused offence and we fully and publicly withdraw such remarks."
The minister of a church with ties to the Fultons said he understood the letter was genuine. Pastor Martin Speed, of Westhoughton Pentecostal Church near Bolton, Greater Manchester, also confirmed that the Fultons' adopted daughter Elizabeth returned to Britain after they were sentenced and is now being looked after by family.
Missionaries sentenced to hard labour by Gambia
Two British missionaries have been sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour after pleading guilty to sedition charges in a Gambian court.
David and Fiona Fulton were arrested last month in the West African country after allegedly sending a letter to individuals and groups criticising Gambia's government.
The pair, who pleaded guilty last Wednesday, were sentenced yesterday and also fined £6250 each.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We are seeking clarity as to what hard labour means in this context. It is a decision for the Fultons with their legal representative as to whether they appeal this judgement or not."
Read on .....
Much prayer believing prayer is needed.
Urgent update and prayer need (24/12/08)
The Fultons have changed their plea to guilty onthe charges of sedition.
Their lawyers has asked that sentencing be left until 30 December, and requested that the courts show leniency.
Pray that, as suggested, they might (eventually) be able to leave the country
The Fulton family with adopted daughter
Original article (4/12/08)
A Scotsman and his wife who are serving as Christian missionaries in The Gambia were arrested last Saturday and are now being held on charges of sedition amidst claims that the couple have been speaking out against the government of president Yahya Jammeh.
Following an earlier court appearance, David Fulton (60) who is originally from Troon, Ayrshire, is being held in the country's notorious Mile Two prison - a high security jail outside the capital Banjul, described as a tough former colonial jail built during the days of the British Empire.
His wife Fiona (46) who is originally from Torquay and the couple’s two-year-old adopted daughter Elizabeth are being held separately in police custody. [The Fultons have two other children, Iona, 20, and Luke, 17, who live near Exeter with another family.]
The couple have ties to a church in Bolton, near Manchester, and Pastor Martin Speed has said:
"The work he (Fulton) is doing is not political. He's sharing his Christian faith with people. "There does seem to be a growing difficulty of Christians in the country of Gambia. We are really concerned about the situation."
A friend of the couple said: “While we are free to speak out, in Gambia you cannot. As a chaplain part of David’s job is to provide comfort to all sorts of people, people high up and people low down – and people who have perhaps fallen out of favour.
“I don’t know of anything they have done that could be called sedition. “Their whole focus has been teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Sedition is a serious crime anywhere. The penalty would not be light.
“Obviously we are concerned. A lot of Christian people all over Britain and all over Europe are praying for them. We are just trusting the outcome will be good.”
Other prisoners on similar charges have been poisoned while in Gambia’s jails according to some reports from the country.
Another friend, who did not want to be named said:
“Fiona has been treated well. “We are not sure about David. We don’t think he’s fared quite as well. “He’s not eating.”
The Fulton's are reportedly being held until they are able to raise bail of £125,000 and meet other conditions. They were offered bail - on condition four Gambian property owners would vouch for them - which, it has been said, they have not yet managed to find.
The Foreign Office have stated: "Our consular staff visited the couple on December 2 and again on December 4 and they remain in daily contact with the couple and are providing consular assistance. The couple are very happy with that assistance."
Fulton served as a major in the British Army, but later fell into a life of crime and found himself in prison. During his sentence the prison chaplain, looking him in the eye, spoke about King David’s crime and that “David had repentant heart and the Lord forgave him.”
Returning to his cell that night he couldn‘t sleep and the following morning he sought the chaplain‘s counsel. “I got down onto my knees and asked the Lord into my heart,” David recalls. Following his conversion he became involved in prison ministry.
Years later David and his wife Fiona (46) took a break from running an auto repair shop in Torquay and, with their two children, went on holiday to The Gambia. Although the family had gone out looking for some sun and relaxation, during the trip home Fiona had a sense that God might be calling them to return to The Gambia to serve the needy people they had met there. However the busyness of life soon pushed thoughts of Africa out of their minds.
Serekuda, The Gambia
Nevertheless, three years later David had a sense that God “had something new for him” and found himself praying in tears for the people of The Gambia. Within a year, the couple sold their home and made arrangements to relocate the family to a small village in The Gambia. They have now been there for twelve years.
David soon began to lay the foundation for a prison ministry, and though there was opposition on account of his Christian beliefs, his military and prison background coupled with his good relationship with government officials opened doors to serve as a chaplain to the Gambian military.
Up to the time of last week’s arrests, David has been training a group of Gambian soldiers to become chaplains so that every unit of the army will have its own chaplain, with David serving as head chaplain. On top of this work, David has continued to provide leadership to Prison Fellowship in The Gambia. David and Fiona personally visit inmates in each of the prisons in the country and also organize services within the prisons.
In addition to services and Bible studies, they and other PF The Gambia members follow up on the needs of remand prisoners, appeal prisoners, and ex-prisoners. Fiona leads a group of volunteers in the women‘s prison teaching the female inmates basic needlecraft and sewing skills. They also pray with the women and offer them Bibles. PF The Gambia is currently in the process of developing a community-based support centre to provide much needed temporary housing and assistance for prisoners who are being released and need help. According to the Westhoughton Pentecostal Church website, David’s ministry on the river involves reaching villages only accessible by boat, whilst Fiona looks after people who are terminally ill.
The Gambia is constitutionally secular but 90 percent of the 1.7 million population is Muslim.
On the 21st and 22nd March 2006, amid tensions preceding the 2006 presidential elections, an alleged planned military coup was uncovered. President Yahya Jammeh was forced to return from a trip to Mauritania, many suspected army officials were arrested, and prominent army officials, including the army chief of staff, fled the country.
There are claims circulating that this whole event was fabricated by the President incumbent for his own purposes; however, the veracity of these claims is not known, as no corroborating evidence has yet been brought forward.
The 1970 constitution, which divided the government into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, was suspended after the 1994 military coup during which Jammeh seized power. In accordance with the timetable for the transition to a democratically elected government, a new constitution for The Gambia was drafted and approved by a referendum in August 1996. The constitution provides for a strong presidential government, a unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and the protection of human rights.