opinionBy Sulayman Bah
Nine days into the arrest and detention of the Imam of Kanifing Estate Mosque, Baba Leigh, which according to the local press has exceeded the 72 hours Constitutional requirement for holding a person in detention without Court order, people have started to express their concern on why he is still not released or charged and bailed.
International rights groups, the media and European Union have all raised concern over the continuous detention of the Gambian Imam and questioned the wisdom of the arrest of Amie Bensouda [earlier released on bail] and are calling for the immediate release of the religious leader.
In the wake of the detention of the Imam, which has also been dominating newspaper headlines recently, this reporter started to sound the views of the public.
"He should be released. He has been detained for more than 72 hours. It is against his right. It is an infringement of his constitutional right", said a middle aged man, during a random vox pop on the issue.
"It is against his constitutional right. The constitution clearly states it: When it goes beyond the limit of time of arrest, then he has grossly been wronged", said Alieu Sanneh, a student at The University Gambia (UTG), while condemning the detention beyond 72 hours and called Imam Baba Leigh's release or court appearance if he I charge with any crime.
"It is unacceptable. I have been hearing about people being arrested and denied access to family members and friends thus disappearing without trace in this peaceful country which is disheartening. My son who is in school buys newspapers and that is where I learned of Baba's arrest when he interpreted it to me from English. I call on the authorities responsible to look into this matter", said Sainabou Jatta, a mother-of-three, selling foodstuff under the scorching sun.
Baba Leigh's arrest coincides with a recent crackdown on four staffers of the Gambia judiciary on the back of a recent high profile apprehension of a female human lawyer, Amie Bensouda.
Lawyer Bensouda's arrest, though she is now on bail, was effected weeks after she led the defence in the alleged theft case involving the two top GAMCOTRAP officials and in which the women rights campaigners were eventually acquitted and discharged.
Conferred with an award in promoting women rights in Islam in the US in August, this year, Baba Leigh, it could be recalled, was one of the few eloquent outspoken scholars to have openly condemned the government execution of nine death row inmates - a move that has won him plaudits.