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Exiled Gambian Cleric Returns Home

February 15, 2017
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Imam Baba Leigh

(JollofNews) – A renowned Gambian imam who fled the Gambia after severe persecution for daring to tell the unpleasant truth to the former regime of Yahya Jammeh Wednesday made a surprised return to the Gambia.

Imam Baba Leigh fled the Gambia to the United States in 2013 shortly after his release from detention. He was kidnapped in December 2012 and held incommunicado for five months by Gambia’s feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) after he criticised the execution of prisoners on death row by Jammeh’s government.

Narrating his ordeal, the imam who was awarded by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network for his work in the Gambia said:” On 3 December, I was arriving home after a funeral when I found two men from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) there waiting for me. “You are wanted [at the NIA offices] to answer some questions,” they said.

“It was 9.30 in the evening. When we arrived at the NIA offices in Banjul, my belongings were taken – my mobile phone, my wallet, my watch. I was then put in a jail until around 1.00am. Then they started beating, hitting and kicking me. For nine days I suffered a lot. I was abducted and then held incommunicado – I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anybody. I had not committed any crime and my conscience was clean.

“After nine days, they told me I was going home and they put me in another car. The man taking me said “we are taking you home”, but they drove to a hidden place called Bambadinka, which means “hole of dragons”. There I was put in a very small, very filthy, dirty room. I spent five months there. I was kept in a dark, small room where I couldn’t see or hear anything, only rats and spiders.

The imam was eventually released in May 2013 spending after five months and 17 days in detention.  He was never charged with any offence.

Speaking shortly after his arrival at the Banjul International Airport where he was given a hero’s welcome by thousands of supporters, Imam Leigh said he was grateful to be back home. He commended Gambians for their support and appeal to other Gambians in the diaspora to return home and help develop their country.

He also called on the new regime of Adama Barrow to fulfill their campaign promises and govern the country faithfully without any tribal discrimination.