Mouctar Diallo, an American University in Cairo graduate student in political science and anthropology/sociology, was arrested in the Gambian capital of Banjul on April 30, 2011 where he was conducting fieldwork for his master’s theses. After months of subsequent house arrest and constant monitoring by the Gambian police, he was formally called in for questioning on June 28, 2011 by the Gambian authorities under suspicions of terrorism and spreading revolutionary ideas inspired by the recent Egyptian protests.
The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) confiscated his personal and academic material including books, fieldnotes, his bag, and his laptop, the contents of which may have initially prompted the authorities’ suspicions.
Diallo, a native of Guinea, has not been able to be reached by family or colleagues since his confinement on June 28. After he was initially under suspicion in April, AUC students and faculty members including Diallo’s thesis advisor, the graduate program coordinator, the department chair, and the dean of social sciences and humanities reached out to the Gambian authorities explaining that he was a student conducting research endorsed by the university. However, the Gambian authorities were not convinced.
According to Phillip Rizk, former AUC graduate and a colleague of Diallo, the nature of Diallo’s fieldnotes and studies alarmed Gambian authorities when they searched his belongings. Rizk states, “Diallo’s books with critical views of the state and Marxist ideology did not go over well with the authorities. His presence and research activities were questioned and Mr. Diallo was put under investigation by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Charges revolve around Mr. Diallo being ‘a threat to national security.’”
Rizk also explains, “Gambian authorities still consider him a threat to national security; they suspect him of sowing seeds of a revolution because of his literature and the time he has spent in Egypt as a student at AUC.”
A number of campaigns including a Facebook page and a Twitter hashtag have been established to release Diallo from prison and fight for his innocence. Diallo, an acitivist himself, has been involved in a similar cause that mirrors his current situation when his friend and colleague Phillip Rizk was detained by Egyptian police for his activism regarding the closure of the Gaza border back in 2008.
Joseph Hill, assistant professor of anthropology at AUC, established the Facebook page when Diallo called him to inform him of his situation as of the events that took place on June 28. He states, “Mouctar told me on the day he was taken in by the NIA (June 28th) that he would contact me if they allowed him to (do so) on the 30th, but that if we didn’t hear from him we could assume they had decided to lock him up without a lawyer or communication. Since then no one has heard anything from him.”
After he was arrested on June 28, authorities told Diallo that he risked getting charged for terrorism after 48 hours of investigation. Dr. Hill explains, “(Terrorism), of course, is a blanket term that most authoritarian regimes use to describe anyone who poses a political threat to them, whether they have a violent ideology or not because (authorities) thought he was trying to spread revolution from Egypt to the Gambia.”
Diallo is currently unable to find a lawyer due rumors stating that he is a “dangerous terrorist” according to the Facebook page.
According to Philip Rizk, “The 48 hour period passed the night of June 30th and since then, myself and a number of professors at the American University in Cairo have been trying to find any means to put pressure on the Gambian authorities to release Mouctar or release information on his case. We have not heard from Mouctar since, or obtained any further information.”
By: Deena Abdelmonem