Killing of two religious disciples laid to popular senegalese Cheikh
11/21/2012, 10:11 a.m.
Nov. 20 (GIN) - Government officials have jailed religious leader Cheikh Bethio Thioune over the brutal murders of two renegade disciples discovered by police last spring. The two had been beaten, then buried in a shallow grave. One was still breathing when he was buried, prosecutors said.
The cleric's arrest, as an accessory to murder, shocked the highly religious West African nation where such acts are rare and seemingly out of character.
Mr. Thioune is alleged to have ordered the beatings of Ababacar Diagne and Bara Sow after they entered his rural domain near Thies, outside Dakar. The victims had been barred from the country house, a gathering place for his closest disciples, according to a justice ministry official.
Newspapers closely following the story carried eye-widening reports of a cardiology test for the 76 year old Cheikh, a "secret" visit to his cell by his youngest wife, Adja Dethie Pene, who slipped in disguised as a nurse; and his interrogation by police.
A charismatic religious leader, Mr. Thione was once influential and wealthy from his disciples' "dues."
The decision by the country's new government, led by President Macky Sall, to prosecute Mr. Thioune is viewed by analysts as a healthy sign that it may pursue other previously untouchable figures.
"It's the most important test of Macky Sall's presidency," Mamadou Diouf, director of African studies at Columbia University, said in a New York Times interview. "If they are able to handle it on the basis of the rule of law, it will be an extraordinary victory, not only for him but for Senegalese democracy."
Mr. Thioune once attracted flocks of Senegalese youth with his all-night dances -- shocking to more orthodox leaders in this predominantly Muslim nation, who express doubts about Mr. Thioune's knowledge of the Koran.
"There are facts here that we didn't invent," said Mouhamadou Moustapha Seye, a judge who directs the Justice Ministry's human rights office was quoted to say. "It is certain that if there had not been a change of government, there would never have been a prosecution."