The Gambia: Release of detained human rights defender Imam Baba Leigh

May 29, 2013

One should be grateful for small gains: Front Line Defenders reported that on 11 May 2013, the Gambian government released renowned Muslim cleric and human rights defender, Iman Baba Leigh, to whose arrest I referred earlier. The human rights defender was arrested on 3 December 2012, and was detained incommunicado for five months for declaring the execution of nine death row inmates to be inimical to Islamic teaching. Imam Baba Leigh serves as a religious advisor for The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices, an organisation working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and children, and is among the organisation’s founding members. He is known as an outspoken campaigner who has used his religious status to advocate for human rights and social reform.Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Whilst he was in detention, Imam Baba Leigh was prevented from seeing his family and was denied access to his lawyer. The human rights defender was not brought to court or charged at any stage. On the occasion of his release, the Gambian Minister for Presidential Affairs, Secretary General and Head of Civil Service reportedly stated that “Imams should discuss religious matters when they are at their religious gatherings, but when you want to comment on politics, you should form your own political party”. So, views on the death penalty are now ‘politics’.

For more information on this case .

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