EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: In a rare situation, Imam Alhaiba Hydara testified before the truth-seeking commission on Monday that he was well treated in prison by officers on duty during the period he was held in custody.
The 50-year-old imam is considered as member of the descendants of Prophet Muhammad [Peace and Blessings be Upon Him], a reason for which his scholarship is highly followed in the country.
He was arrested while presiding over a naming of former Minister of Interior, Samba Bah by a team of former President Jammeh’s most-feared National Intelligence (NIA) officer Bakary Gassama in 2005 and taken from one detention centre to another.
“At the NIA, they did not take me through the front door but the back way and made to sit there until afternoon.”
Right at the police headquarters, uniformed men recognised the Imaam as a respected scholar for whom they could break the law to prevent from entering the detention cells. But he volunteered to lock himself up to prevent unwarranted repercussion on the policemen.
“I said to him Nyang, I know you and your family very well; your father is relying on you. So, imprison me and he said to me Sheriff I won’t do it. I told him sit down I will take myself to the cell. I opened the cell, those that I found inside pushed me outside and said I won’t enter because I am an elderly.”
Even after getting his way into the cells, other detainees took it upon themselves to fan him off mosquitoes and heat all night.
Asked why he decided to luck himself, the Sheriff told the TRRC that he did so because most of the followers of the prophet have experienced imprisonment for standing up their rights.
Then Crime Management Coordinator, Jatta Baldeh questioned the Imaam on the content of his regular sermons before Muslims in the mosques.
“He asked if I had said something against the government or the president? I told him if he had any cassette to show that I have said something about the government or the president or is there any written document to show I have said something against the government or president?”
On the contents of his sermons, the imam told the crime investigators that all his teachings are based on current affairs latest of which was on pilgrimage, visit to the Holly Mosque in Mecca.
He offered them access to achieve of Islamic lectures kept by administration of his mosque in Yundum.
The situation of Alhaiba Hydara was one in a series of attack on religious freedom under the leadership of former president Yahya Jammeh. He had been accused of preaching against the Jammeh administration but investigators could not provide grounds to keep him in prison.
Story written by Juldeh Njie