Imam Ismaël Nanfo Diaby was arrested on 13 May at his home while leading the Eid el-Fitr prayer, the « feast of the breaking of the fast » in the Malinke language. The court of first instance in Kankan (East), has just sentenced him to one year in prison, including 6 months suspended, and a fine of 500,000 Guinean francs. He was accused of disturbing public order. But his lawyers have appealed this decision, which they are contesting in the name of the secularity of the state.
The famous Guinean imam Ismael Nanfo Diaby, who leads prayers in Malinke rather than Arabic, the language of revelation of the Muslim religion, was sentenced on Wednesday 26 May by the Court of First Instance in Kankan, Guinea’s second largest city, to one year in prison, six months of which were suspended, and a fine of 500,000 Guinean francs. The imam is being prosecuted for disturbing public order and violating the ban on praying in the local language, which was notified to him in 2020 by the country’s general secretariat for religious affairs.
Since 2019, the case of Imam Ismaël Nanfo Diaby has been a hot topic of religious and social debate in Guinea, causing a strong controversy, because he leads the Laylat al-Qadr (night of destiny) prayer in his mother tongue, Malinke. This was very badly perceived in this West African country, and many Muslims expressed their indignation.
Imam Ismael Nanfo Diaby was then banned from « religious activities » and from speaking « in the media, until further notice » by the Islamic League of Guinea, on 10 June 2019. But the imam, supported by some followers of this practice, continued his prayers in a mosque built at his home.
On Saturday 11 July 2020, he was arrested for recidivism and then released after two nights at the central police station of Kankan with, this time, a formal prohibition from the administrative authorities to officiate prayers in Malinke language. While he was detained by the police, some very angry young Muslims went to ransack his mosque, kidnap his family, and ransack his vehicle. He was released. Except that this time, the imam was sent to prison where he will meditate on his fate.