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Saturday, 15 December 2012 00:01(Column) – Mr President, it’s well past mid-night here in the West Midlands and I should have been fast asleep in my bed. But my conscience cannot allow me to enjoy the comfort of my bed without condemning the arrest and continuous detention of Imam Baba Leigh and demanding for his immediate release.
Imam Leigh of the Kanifing East mosque is currently held at the NIA headquarters in Banjul since his arrest by NIA officers over a week ago. He is yet to be charged with any crime and is not allowed access to his family or able to lead his congregation in prayers.
Mr President, this is a serious violation of the rights and freedoms of Imam Leigh, which are clearly guaranteed in the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia. And it is worth reminding you that as president of the Gambia, you have on many occasions swore by the Qur’an to uphold and defend that very same constitution at all time without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
Section 19 (1) of the Gambian Constitution states that: “Every person shall have the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary, arrest or detention...”
It further states in Section 19 (2) that “Any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case within three hours, in a language that he or she can understands, of the reasons for his or her arrest or detention and of his or her right to consult a legal practitioner.
Further protecting the rights and liberties of the people, the constitution states in Section 19 (3) that any person who is arrested or detained-
(a) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of the order of a court, or
(b) upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the Laws of the Gambia, and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and, in any event, within 72 hours.
Mr President, the continuous detention of Imam Leigh incommunicado in violation of the constitutional provisions is a cause for concern. Even though the Gambian constitution is neither a Bible nor Qur’an as you have always argued, it should be treated with maximum respect like the Bible and Qur’an as it established precedents according to which our great country is governed. And you should have known better as leader of 21st Century Gambia.
Mr President, Imam Leigh has got every right to express his opinions. And as Imam of thousands of worshippers, he has to uphold his religious duties by teaching them the words of his Allah even if they upset you and your government.
This is not the first time you have ordered for his arrest and detention. You arrested him in 2002 when I wrote an article in The Independent Newspaper in which he condemned you and your government for the wastage of public resources. It was wrong to arrest him then and it is completely out of order to arrest and detain him now for speaking out against the cold blooded murder of nine prisoners at the Mile Two Prisons. And I hereby call for his immediate and unconditional release from detention.
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