By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) - The man who served as interior minister under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh could face charges of crimes against humanity, Swiss authorities said on Monday, after a legal group filed a criminal complaint against him.
Swiss police took Jammeh's ex-interior minister Ousman Sonko into custody in Bern last month after Geneva-based legal group Trial International filed a criminal complaint accusing him of serious assault, coercion and false imprisonment.
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Neither Sonko nor his lawyer could be reached on Monday for comment.
Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it would investigate the complaint against Sonko.
Trial International, which files legal complaints in cases where it believes human rights have been violated, has "gathered valuable information relevant to the criminal proceedings", the OAG said.
"The OAG takes the view that the elements presented in the request would not rule out a suspicion of crimes against humanity," the office said in a statement.
"Until the end of the investigation period of three months, the OAG will carry out further investigations in particular with a view to establishing whether there are sufficient grounds to establish crimes against humanity."
Jammeh, who lost a Dec. 1 election to Gambia's new president Adama Barrow and decamped for Equatorial Guinea last month, has denied allegations of torture and killing opponents during his 22 years in power.
But his repressive rule that started in 1994 and Gambia's flagging economy saw thousands flee across the Sahara and Mediterranean to Europe each year.
A spokeswoman for Trial International reached on Monday declined to release details about its complaint, saying the group's policy was to keep such information confidential.
Sonko applied for asylum in Switzerland in early November and had been living in an asylum center in the capital Bern before being taken into police custody on Jan. 28.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Gareth Jones)