Senegal religious chief held after acolytes killed


Authorities in Senegal have arrested an influential religious leader in connection with the killing of two of his followers, a case that may strain the relationship between Islamic orders and the country’s justice system.

Cheikh Bethio Thioune, a senior member of the powerful Mouride brotherhood, is the first leader of his stature to be arrested in years in the heavily Muslim West African state, where the line between religion and politics is often blurred.

Local media have reported that two of Bethio’s disciples were killed over the weekend at his house after a dispute and that their bodies were then hastily buried.
“Cheikh Bethio has been held to face charges of complicity of murder, criminal conspiracy and hiding bodies, amongst other charges,” Ousmane Seye, his lawyer, told Reuters on Thursday.

Some of Bethio’s followers ransacked the local government offices in Thies, the town where he has been charged.

Bethio backed former president Abdoulaye Wade in his failed re-election campaign earlier this year. Under Wade, critics complained that some people close to the presidency were untouchable by the justice system.

Newly elected President Macky Sall, who took office earlier this month, is under pressure to investigate reports of corruption during Wade’s rule and has pledged not to interfere in the justice system.