Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Latest update on David and Fiona Fulton

clip_image001The following is the latest update on the Fultons, as released by their own church in the United Kingdom:

On Saturday 29th November Dave and Fiona were arrested for sedition (undermining the authority of the government). They have since been held separately, Dave in the high security Mile Two prison in solitary confinement and Fiona in the police station initially with two year old Elizabeth but who is now in the care of friends. 

They were formally charged with the offence in court on 4th December and remain imprisoned as a result because of the difficult bail conditions. They appeared in court again on Wednesday 24th December when they pleaded guilty to the charge of sedition and were sentenced on 30th December to one years imprisonment with hard labour and a fine of about £6250 in sterling.

We are shocked and saddened by the severity of the sentence and are doing whatever we can to seek their release. Please pray concerning an appeal against this sentence.

We at The Voice of the Martyrs protest both the arrest and the severe sentencing of this couple.  According to their pastor, Martin Speed, of Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in Bolton, the couple were advised to admit the sedition charge in the hope that the judge might show leniency.  According to the Telegraph, friends of the couple who have been receiving regular email updates claim that they have never made any such remarks. "They are supposed to have sent an email out causing hatred against the government out there but I don't believe they have," said Karen Hill, one of their supporters. "I have had emails for the last 10 years from them and I've never had a bad one, they never said anything bad against the government. (It was) just about their work, what they do out there and how much they enjoy it, please pray for people - things like that, nothing untoward."

Continue to pray for their release. Please pray for their children Iona, Luke and adopted baby Elizabeth.


blueshawk said...

From all reports, Gambia seems to be run by an authoritarian regime that is both corrupt and suspicious, bordering on paranoia. In such an environment, pleading guilty to sedition would seem to be bad advice. Even in less oppressive countries, it would seem that being guilty of sedition would carry at least a one-year sentence. Is there more to the story that would make admitting sedition the better alternative?

I hope they are protected while in prison and their children are cared for until their parents return home.

Glenn Penner said...

No, it would appear that they were advised to plead guilty to exactly what they were being charged with (in the hopes of leniency).

Bene D said...

There are 193 media reports on the Fultons.
The FO has been involved.
For some reason I've followed their story since you first posted, even for a repressive country, reports weren't adding up. (The communication infrastructure is adequate, media is not)

The reality is that this couple will probably die in Gambia. We as followers of Jesus Christ hope and pray for a miracle and work to help to get them home. Since there arrest it appears their denomination has come across as ineffective and I am stuggling to understand why.


"The judge quoted from an email sent in September, entitled "Hell In The Gambia," in which the country, which is 97 per cent Muslim, is described as "sinking fast into a morass of Islam".

This makes no sense.

The Fulton's have lived in Gambia for 12 years - even at 60 years of age Mr. Fulton has had ample time to adapt to a culture he claims to love.

The reporting church website facts about Gambia seriously conflict with other sources such as the CIA factbook or the UN. Can someone help me understand why?

This country doesn't have an Amnesty International presence. (their personnel were arrested)

This couple 'couldn't' make bail.

AI staff made bail but could not leave the country. They got out because of their high profile.

Again forgive me, this apparent scapegoating does not make sense. Where was the Fulton's denomination?

If they survive, (it's a big if - given disease, abuse and foreigner poisoning) they and their denomination pay this fine or Mr. and Mrs. Fulton will have more time tacked onto their sentences in 6 month increments.

If they make it through their sentence they have sedition on their legal records, adding to Mr. Fulton's UK robbery charges.
This plea does not appear to be a survival response. What am I missing?

Best case scenario - Gambia hands them over to the UK. That's wishful thinking.
VotM deals in reality, works for change and believes in miracles. I'm not getting a clue from the UK church base. Again I have to ask, why not?

The country legal system is a blend of British common law, sharia and customary.

The Fulton legal counsel is openly named in UK reports.

I'm sorry, I'm been having and am having difficulty understanding how a couple who has lived and served in a country for 12 years email 'friends' in the UK about what a hell it is; are arrested and are supposedly talked into expecting the court to show leniency on sedition charges.

Leniency has not been a Gambian polical and legal precendemt - surely the Fulton's were aware of that more that we'd be.

That they may be ill, tortured, threatened into pleading guilty is probable, but I don't get any sense we are getting anythig more than polical and religious propaganda.

VotM said 'they couldn't make bail', consistent with reports from the host church.
Again, given Gambian political and social repression none of their Gambian friends and converts have the money or inclination to be able to step forward, but where was their denomination?

This guilty plea - for all intensive purposes (given local and national UK media reports) is a willful death sentence.

This makes no sense.
They have to have known 30 people who have pleaded guilty to sedition died in custody, he worked for the UK and Gambian Army (again conflicting reports) and as a prison chaplain trainer.


"Mr Fulton, 60, a former British Army major and Mrs Fulton, 46, were arrested on 29 November after a former associate handed over round-robin e-mails allegedly criticising the government. They pleaded guilty to the charges and apologised, hoping to earn a more lenient sentence."

I'm having difficulty understanding how experienced missionaries can appear to behave naively.
Questioning structures and behavior is not blaming the Fultons.

Bene D

Glenn Penner said...

I would certainly agree that the Fultons seem to have gotten very poor advise about pleading guilty. But one other thing to keep in mind is the impossibility of getting legal counsel that would stand up to the government. They seem to have been in virtually a "no win" situation.

I can't answer alot of your questions, of course, nor do I think you expect us to. There are things, undoubtedly going on behind the scenes that we are only getting glimpses of and which we may never know fully(hence the confusion).

As for the conflicting stories, welcome to our world :-). It is sometimes very difficult to sort through it all. In this case, we have chosen to go largely with what their church and pastor has been saying (which admittedly isn't a lot at times. They may be doing more than they are able to say and perhaps cannot do things that they would wish to do).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Glenn, the Fulton's story hasn't added up since the day you posted it. I see a no win also but not just for the reasons you state.

I'm not called to your world, but thanks for the welcome...questions are easy, it's the answers that are difficult.

There is information and updated information which can be quite different from hard facts and predictable react and how we disseminate and absorb information has changed rapidly. When lives are at stake flexibility and transparency are critical - which is why you are doing your job and I'm just watching.

The FO seems to be doing their job. I don't buy 'this is a Muslim issue' the church is peddling. I believe they believe it.
If Fulton was the chaplain at the airport and for the army he would have been well aware of the the sex trade, well aware of unemployment and crime. He had computer access, was given river access to tribes. He knew the risk to foreigners.
The President was quite happy to hold forth on his opinion of them when the Christians came to call.

This church has been reported as:
a) the Fulton's sponsor
b) a church they merely spoke at
c) The Independent says the Fultons are freelance missionaries

What is the definition of a free lance missionary?
How many are there in the world?
Why would someone chose the mission field long term without denominational blessing and backing? Country circumstances, citizen safety...

If UK and world media is confused, that only compounds confusion of source material.
All Africa doesn't have their names right, other reports have time lines wrong, I expect discrepencies and agenda in various media; clearness and consistency and correction from reputable outlets, the FO and most sponsoring denominations. Repeating something a dozen times doesn't make it true. Facts are seriouly thin about the Fulton family.

The host church is AoG and therefore by extension a member of the EA, so like you I automatically assume things are being done with the FO behind the scenes.
We may well assume incorrectly.
The UK AoG main site says they commissioned three missionaries last year.

The denomination does not list the Fultons as missionaries.
12 years in Gambia and they aren't listed.

The church site is being permitted to openly solicit money.

The Canadian missionary information this church has for a couple they 'sent' here is incorrect and hasn't been updated.

This church hasn't been faithful with known the Gambia demographic faq's, which can't be helping the Fulton family.

196 news outlets carried this plea and conviction as of year end, I'm not understanding why the denomination isn't publicly stepping up. While it's nice the local church has asked for the help of The Church of Scotland and The Anglican Church, and will get it, why no denominational care and oversight?

The 'what you can do to help' off the church page is a cut and paste.
Understandable in a state of shock, insufficient after time has passed.
Better than leaving the Fulton's to their fate, but all it does after x number of hours/days is make computer chair jockeys feel better...

I took a look at Gambian media and communication infrastructure in relation to the rest of the region.
I wouldn't expect a defense attorney to function in a disinegrating legal system, no rational person would.
Most of the government web sites don't work, this is a systemically dysfunctional country.

I would expect a denomination to:
a) be aware, keep their field workers aware
b) have structural rapid response for missionaries, politically, practically and publicly

The Fultons were supposedly to go to the UK for a Christmas furlough, friends were supposedly led to believe that.
( The Fultons also initially said the email(s) that was quoted in their conviction was about a friend suffering injustice. Something made them change that position.

The family says their health is suffering, they are too scared to go see them. The consulate has stated it will monitor the couple.

Why hasn't the email (emails) been released?

This email was supposedly sent to organizations and individuals.

These supposed organizations and individuals don't all live in a dictatorship with a president who said: "“those who voted for me in the presidential elections and for my candidates in the legislative elections will not regret it, but I must repeat those who voted against me, like I warned during the campaign, swearing by the Holy Koran, will regret that they did.” He's been clear he wants political opposition to rot in hell and publically prays they are sent to rot in hell. That's a dissent squelcher.

Where is the email(s)?

Fulton supposedly wrote:

"I am moving fast on this as we have just managed to thwart an attempt at bringing Sharia {Islamic}law into The Gambia and the trade off was that 20 unregistered churches were closed down. So I need to get them established while I can."

"We?" Who is we?
I know you can't answer that one.

The World Evangelical Alliance released this as a news story off the BBC, I haven't seen a statement from the AoG, The Evangelical Alliance,or anything from The Church of Scotland.
Thank you for your faithfulness, while sources in this situation are hinky, people are at risk and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

This is a story about a supposed former British Army major who supposedly did time for armed robbery who had a conversion experience, supposedly met his wife in a prison visit, got out and went to Gambia as a missionary. There is no denominational record of them. This is the story of a family who work at the only airport, get arrested by a dictorship after being turned in by a supposed former friend. This couple supposedly choses to throw themselves on the leniency of a barely functioning court system, and whose supporters certainly couldn't raise a supposed 125 thousand pounds bail.

The supposed seditious email(s) haven't surfaced for two months.

Next question.

Have attempts to implement Sharia law been introduced in Gambia?
I've spent hours on this one, it's kind of a none question.
The Gambia is one of two former British colonies which maintained Sharia law. (Article 7 The Gambia Constitution) The Constitution, which is obviously wobbly and held by a government put in place by a coup, remaining in place after 6 coup attempts; does not adopt an official religion. Sharia law never went away.
It was fimrly in place when the Fulton's went to Gambia 12 years ago.
This country has increasingly absymal human rights issues, that is not a secret. Gambia a dangerous place to live.

If Mr. Fulton is saying the elected legislative branch (used loosely) is going to introduce Sharia law beyond lower courts he knows something observers don't.

That the criminal courts have been increasingly used to silence dissent is not a well kept secret either. The International Press Institute has been actively protesting politically motivated prosecution. The legal system has always been in disarray, incompetence and a lack of education a significant part of the problem, corruption a larger part.

Dissent has been crushed, short of another coup, this government isn't going anywhere. Election results in 2011 will be predictable.

This church seems to have it's own agenda, I don't trust their information. That sounds cruel when lives are at stake, but this church is the Fulton's voice and it's a serious responsibiliity and obligation.

The Fulton's supposedly have a 20 day appeal process, it's not clear where their older kids are, there will have to be some serious high level diplomatic dancing done on their behalf.
The UK consular statement after sentencing was terse. That's understandable.

The Gambia government doesn't consider The Fultons Christian, that comes straight from Mr. President. Political posturing is continuing and the liklihood of this couple surviving is not good at all.

There are good reasons you do what you do, you have a calling which requires learned practical skill sets as well as compassion, patience, prudence and spiritual discernment.

Aren't you glad I'm not called to work with you?
I'd drive you nuts, I'm sorry I'm not buying 'it's a Muslim' thing and thank you for calling the names.

May God have mercy on this couple.

Bene D

Glenn Penner said...

Thank you for the lllllooooooggggg comment, Bene D :). You do raise some interesting points to be sre, though I would not take the Gambian president's words at face value, for cure. I suspect that neither do you. As for this being a Sharia law issue, I, too, have no evidence of this and I have my doubts.

You ask how many "free lance" missionaries there are? A lot more than you might think. There are many such individuals and couple who go out without denominational blessing and backing. I have run across a good number in my own trips. Some are pretty good at what they do; others...not so much.

Actually, I like folks who ask lots of questions, as long as the desire is to seek the truth and not just to call doubt on everything. I don't suspect you are in the latter group.

Anonymous said...

It was lllloooooogggggg.:^)

I honestly hadn't heard of free lance missionaries before - thanks for your patience.
I'll try to comment less and pray more.