June 9, 2016 at 9:00 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Nephew of Gambian president receives asylum in U.S.

Alagie Jammeh, gay news, Washington Blade

Alagie Jammeh, nephew of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, speaks at the Newseum in D.C. on Dec. 8, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Phil Humnicky/Human Rights First)

The nephew of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh who posted a pro-LGBT message to his Facebook page has received asylum in the U.S.

Alagie Jammeh told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview from Oxnard, Calif., that his initial asylum interview took place on May 6.

Alagie Jammeh learned on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia — that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had recommended him for approval. He told the Blade that his lawyer called him two days later and said his asylum request had been granted after passing a background check.

“It was exciting,” said Alagie Jammeh.

Gambian government rescinded scholarship over Facebook post

Alagie Jammeh, who will graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, next week, posted a message to his Facebook page in September 2014 that said, “no one should be denied of their fundamental basic human rights because of their sexuality.” He told the Blade in a previous interview that he wrote the post after he became friends with a gay man.

Alagie Jammeh said members of his family in Gambia told him to remove the post from his Facebook page because they were concerned that he would lose his government scholarship. He told the Blade that Yahya Jammeh ultimately stopped providing financial support to him.

“One of the reasons I came to school here is to see things from a different angle,” said Alagie Jammeh on Monday. “I’m not going to apologize for that.”

Gambian government: Alagie Jammeh is ‘lying’

Gambia is a small, predominantly Muslim country that straddles the Gambia River in West Africa.

Yahya Jammeh in 2014 signed a law under which those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” face life in prison. Activists and U.S. officials have sharply criticized the Gambian president over his anti-LGBT rhetoric, which includes threatening to slit the throats of gay men who live in the country.

Yahya Jammeh owns a $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Md.

Alagie Jammeh told the Blade last year that the Gambian government asked him to return to his homeland and publicly apologize for his Facebook post. He refused, saying that Gambian authorities would have likely arrested him once he arrived in the country.

“I can’t go to the Gambia,” said Alagie Jammeh. “I will be arrested — not only arrested, but killed.”

A Gambian government spokesperson with whom the Blade spoke last year in D.C. accused Alagie Jammeh of “lying.”

The Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights First invited Alagie Jammeh to speak at a D.C. reception last December that marked International Human Rights Day. Alagie Jammeh told the Blade on Monday that he will continue to publicly support LGBT-specific issues once he graduates from UC Santa Barbara with his degree in global studies and international relations.

“I’m never going to apologize for supporting gay people,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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