(GIN) –Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has asked for a face to face meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. to discuss the fate of 37 death row prisoners scheduled to be executed one at a time for the next 37 months.
Nine prisoners were shot dead on Aug. 29. The rest were supposed to be dead by Sept. 15, but after receiving calls from the Rev. Jackson and several international humanitarian groups, President Jammeh backed off the execution schedule.
"The goal is to save some lives by getting him to commute some sentences," Jackson told Fox News.
The civil rights leader has already won the release of two Americans who faced sentences of up to 20 years. The two Gambian-born Americans — Tamsir Jasseh, a one-time U.S. soldier, and Amadou Scattred Janneh, a longtime professor at the University of Tennessee — were both accused and convicted of treason by the Jammeh regime.
Killing prisoners, Jackson said, "isn't going to make Jammeh, himself or his country, any safer…It’s essentially punishing the whole country with their blood. And executing prisoners by firing squad makes a country look less humane."
Many of The Gambia's death row inmates are former officials and top military officers who have been detained for treason since 1994, when Mr Jammeh took power in a coup. A woman was among those executed, the Interior Ministry said.
"I hope and pray he will choose the high road," said Jackson.