By Mustapha Jallow
Alhagi Ousman Sawaneh, the Imam of Kanifing South and Sheikh Omar Colley, the Imam of a mosque in Jabang Borehole, have now clocked one year in detention without trial or access to family members as both of them were arrested by unidentified men in civilian clothes and held incommunicado since October last year.
The two are both reported to be held at the remote prison camp in Janjangbureh in the hinterland.
However, the family members of these two victims of long detention and impunity are suffering and being traumatised by the lack of access to their loved ones and their absence as breadwinners.
This reporter visited the respective homes of the two imams yesterday for an update and was informed by their loved ones that they are still being unlawfully detained.
One of the wives of Imam Sawaneh reported that he was still being held incommunicado as they have no access to see and provide him with clothes and toiletries.
It was earlier reported that Imam Sawaneh was picked up around 10 am on Sunday, 18 October, 2015, while leading a team of volunteers to clear the grass in the Kanifing South Cemetery. His whereabouts were not initially made known to the family but he was later traced to the NIA headquarters in Banjul. He was later transferred from the NIA to Janjangbureh Prison on the 27 October.
Family sources revealed that 2 men in civilian clothes came to their home and asked for him and were told that the Imam Sawaneh had gone to the Cemetery and that the unknown visitors then requested for his phone number which was given to them.
“After giving them the number, they left and did not disclose to us what their mission was but an eyewitness who was with the imam at the cemetery came and told us that he saw him being approached by two men who asked to see him in private and later went with him. We then called his cell phone but it was switched off and that was the time we began searching for him until he was finally traced to the NIA. He is now currently held incommunicado at Janjangbureh prison in the Central River Region (CRR),’’ disclosed the family source.
With the filing of a writ of habeas corpus by the Imam’s family, the high court in Banjul ordered for the Imam’s release on Monday, 21 March, 2016, either conditionally or unconditionally.
Family members have said they do not know why he is still held in spite of the court order for his release. They have expressed their concerns over the detention of their loved one and are urging the authorities to release him.
Sheikh Omar Colley, an Imam of a mosque in Jabang Borehole, was also arrested on Thursday, 15 October, and currently detained at Janjanbureh Prison in the CRR.
When contacted, one of the brother’s of Imam Colley told this medium that their family member is yet to return home since he was asked by an unknown caller to report to the Yundum police station. He said several attempts have been made by them to secure his release but to no avail.
“We’re always wondering why the authorities are holding him at the prison without access to his family for more than a year now. This is very painful in our hearts,” he said.
Mr. Colley’s family is also renewing its calls on the authorities to release their husband and brother for the sake of justice.
The continued detention of Imam Sawaneh is in contempt of the ruling of the Banjul High Court which ordered for his conditional or unconditional release while Imam Colley’s long detention without trial is in gross violation of his constitutional rights. Section 19 of the Second Republic Constitution of The Gambia states that “Any person who is arrested or detained… who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court of law and, in any event, within 72 hours.”