Gambia: Detained Islamic cleric released

By Sanna Camara

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The Gambia’s vocal religious cleric and leading critic of the President Jammeh’s government has been released today after being detained for over five months.

Imam baba Leigh appeared on national television this evening along with other Islamic clerics such as Imam Abdoulie Fatty of the State House mosque,  the imam Rathib of Banjul, among others, apparently thanking the President for “pardoning” him.

Execution of death row inmates

The Imam has been picked up by state security agents since late last year, at the height of controversies over the assassination of nine death row inmates.

He has not been heard of, neither accessed by his family or legal counsels since then.

Rights groups’ pressure

Human rights activists and groups, among others have been exerting pressure on the government to release the Imam since then to no avail.

Presidential pardon

However, appearing today on national television, Imam Leigh, lloking frail in white robes and prayer bids, said the best of humans is the one who, after committing mistakes, turns around and admit making the mistake.

He thanked President Jammeh for pardoning him, noting that what destined t is happen to anyone, must happen.

Statehouse Imam, Abdoulie Fatty said President Jammeh  was not the one behnd the capture and detention of the Imam during this time.

Diplomatic pressure

Just this morning, independent newspapers carried a joint statement from the British and American envoys on the Imam’s mission

The missions say they continue to be greatly concerned about the welfare and safety of Imam Baba Leigh.

“As a leading Islamic scholar, Imam Baba Leigh is a frequent interlocutor of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Department of State and is known as a trusted religious leader throughout The Gambia. The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency allegedly detained him on Monday, December 3 for reasons unknown. Imam Baba Leigh has not been seen or heard from in five months and the Government of The Gambia continues to deny providing information about his whereabouts,” the joint statement said.

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