An international human rights group, Front Line Defenders, Wednesday called on the Gambian authorities to ensure 'the immediate and unconditional release' of detained Moslem cleric and human rights defender, Imam Baba Leigh.
In a statement, received here by PANA, the rights group also urged the Gambian authorities to 'take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Imam Leigh while in detention, in accordance with international standards related to the treatment of detained persons.'
Leigh was taken from his home on 3 December, 2012, by two men believed to members of Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) .
'More than two months after his arrest, the whereabouts of the human rights defender and religious leader continues to remain unknown,' Front Line Defender stated.
According to the rights group, efforts by family and colleagues to obtain information on the whereabouts of Imam Leigh 'have been unsuccessful'.
He serves as a religious advisor to The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), an organisation working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and children. Leigh is among the organisation's founding members.
'His colleagues at GAMCOTRAP visited the NIA headquarters to seek information but the human rights defender's location was not disclosed by officials. Fears have been expressed that Imam Leigh may have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention,' the statement added.
'It is believed that Imam Leigh has been targeted solely because of his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights in the Gambia,' the group reiterated.
The rights group also pointed out that prior to Leigh's arrest and subsequent disappearance, he had reportedly complained of receiving intimidating and anonymous telephone calls at night.
'The threats followed Leigh's public condemnation, through sermons and in writing, of a decision by Gambia's authorities to execute a number of prisoners on death row.'
At least nine inmates were executed in August 2012, days after President Yahya Jammeh had stated his intention to carry out the executions,' the statement added.