FREDERICK, Md. - A Maryland woman who left her Frederick home to visit family in her native Gambia last year is set to return home after a tumultuous journey that had her detained in the country for nearly a year.
Last April, Fanta Jawara was in Gambia for a family reunion. She was traveling abroad when her family said she found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time - jailed with a group of political protesters she reportedly had nothing to do with.
She was arrested just two days before she would have returned home to her husband and two teenage daughters in Frederick.
She was initially sentenced with 17 other people to three years in prison on several charges that included unlawful assembly, incitement to violence and conspiracy. But the U.S. citizen for nearly two decades will finally get to return home to the United States on Thursday night.
"It's been kind of hard going through the summer without my mom and starting school," said Jawara's daughter, Fanta.
"To say that it was traumatic is an understatement," said Jawara's father, Momodou Darboe. "This was a shock. If you know her personality, she is not the type who you would expect to get involved in situations like this."
He also added, "She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"It was very, very hard," said husband Ebrima Jawara. "Because Gambia is different with here in America. When she was arrested, we lost contact."
Jawara's husband said talks between the United States and Gambia to negotiate his wife's release were at a standstill until Gambia had a change in leadership. Since the shift, Ebrima Jawara said the charges against his wife were dropped and she was released a couple months ago.
"We are going to be so happy with the family, especially my kids," said Ebrima. "They haven't seen their mom in the past 11 months."