(JollofNews) – The Gambia Moral Congress Party (GMC) is leading calls for the immediate and unconditional release of a Gambian cleric currently languishing in state custody.

Sheikh Muhideen Hydara, 80, Khaliph General of Darsilami Sangajor, Foni Kansala District, and West Coast Region was arrested together with his village alkalo, BuyehTouray last Tuesday by state security agents.

No reason has been given for their arrest, but it is believed that their arrest and detention incommunicado was in connection with their decision to observed Muslim feast of Eid ul Fitr on Tuesday instead of Monday as announced by the Supreme Islamic Council of the Gambia.

President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia vowed on Monday during a meeting with Muslim leaders at his palace in Banjul to come down heavily on anyone who goes against the decree of the Islamic council.
But the Gambia Moral Congress Party said the arrest and detention of the two men violate their fundamental constitutional liberties. It urged the authorities to release the duo on the grounds that they have not breached any law in the Gambia, while their continuous detention constitutes an act of executive lawlessness.

It also called on the government to award compensation for the unlawful arrest and detention of the duo.
“The Supreme Islamic Council is not a creature of statute, nor is it funded from the consolidate fund,” said Mai Ahmad Fatty, leader of the GMC.

“It has no statutory powers to police Islamic religious practice in any part of the Gambia, and has no corporate legal jurisdiction over Muslims in the Gambia. Its rules and principles are enforceable (if at all) exclusively over its private members who do not legally represent any political, religious or social constituency in the Gambia, except themselves.”

The GMC said there is no law enacted by the Gambia’s parliament at any material time that confers the extraordinary police and judicial powers being illegally exercised by the Supreme Islamic Council.  It further argued that a mere Presidential declaration or statement may have the force of policy (if at all) and not that of law.

The opposition party added: “Assuming without conceding it was a policy statement or directive, it is subject to the over-riding protective provisions of the constitution. The words of the president cannot override, amend or substitute any legal provision, and in this instance, at best it amounted to a ‘wish’.
“The Executive, and all implementation organs and agencies of the state ought to appreciate the distinction between policy and a directive; law and policy; declarations and statements; directive and law. The president’s statement banning Eid prayers on Tuesday the 29th July 2014 does not amount to law, and therefore unqualified to carry the force of law.
“Law is not made by mere verbal declarations. It is legislated by the only constitutionally competent body, and in the Gambia that power is exercised by no person or authority except the National Assembly. Even the National Assembly cannot interfere with the right of religious practice, an entrenched provision of the constitution. The statement itself is a travesty of the law, because the president has no powers under the constitution to issue such an order under the circumstances. It is ultra vires.”

The GMC reminded the Gambian authorities that those who swore an oath to protect and to defend the constitution and other laws of the Gambia, should not be found wanting in its application.
The party also urged the Supreme Islamic Council to mind its business, confine its reach to its private members, and stop inter-meddling in Islamic religious affairs in the country. 
Written by JollofNews