By Alagie MAnneh
A Mauritanian national, who was arrested in February and charged with attempted rape, has been released from police custody, The Standard has learnt.
The man, believed to be in his mid-thirties, was accused of attempting to rape a 12-year-old girl in a bakery in Bakau.
In the wake of the incident, agitated neighbours entered the bakery, seized the accused, before a rowdy crowd and curious onlookers marched him to the Bakau police.
However, after two “tough” months in police custody, the Mauritanian walked away a free man. It is not clear how the alleged perpetrator was released despite being charged with attempted rape, which carries a maximum punishment of seven years.
When The Standard visited the alleged perpetrator, he refused to say much, but expressed regret over what had happened.
He confirmed that he was in fact released at the Police Headquarters in Banjul “many months ago”.
Pressed to shed light on exactly how he got released from the police, he said: “I have since forgotten about this and I no longer want to talk about it.”
However, a source claiming knowledge of the case told The Standard that the man was released after a few elders from the community of Bakau including the alleged perpetrator’s guardians prevailed on the victim’s family for mercy.
“They have asked for forgiveness especially because we are all Muslims,” the girl’s father later confirmed to the The Standard.
But he added that personally, he was not very pleased with how the elders prevailed on his family for mercy because “a serious crime was committed”.
“But it [the whole matter] ended up in a very responsible manner. The police took their stance and did not go easy on the perpetrator. He was punished,” he added.
According to him, he refused the elders’ advances at first “because it appears as if they wanted to pay us. We don’t need their money. That was clear from the onset”.
Asked about the young girl’s condition six months after the incident, the father replied: “Psychologically, she is doing okay. But that exposure, what she saw, she should not have seen that.”
The national coordinator of the Child Protection Alliance, Lamin Fatty, said it is not uncommon for perpetrators of such crimes to walk away free in The Gambia.
“I have received allegations that people have been giving money to police in order for them to allow perpetrators of crimes such as rape walk away. It has been happening here,” he said.
Contacted for comment, police PRO ASP Njie asked for time to find out details surrounding the matter. However, until the time of press, he was unavailable, and several attempts to reach him failed.