Cape Town - Three Pagad members, including leader Abdus-Salaam Ebrahim, were released at 5pm on Friday after being held for almost 40 hours in connectionwith a shooting in Lotus River shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

A furious Ebrahim, who was still uncertain last night whether charges against them had been dropped, said they had been wrongfully arrested and linked to a shooting he knew nothing about.

Ebrahim, Farouk Francis and Salie Behardien were being held in connection with the shooting and injury of a 21-year-old man.

Last night Ebrahim branded the arrests “malicious”, and said it was “a clear smear campaign against Pagad”.

Asked to comment on their release, police spokesman Andre Traut remained adamant that the three would appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Ebrahim said he was aware that the Grassy Park police were preparing their release papers at 7am on Thursday, but that things changed when the Hawks learnt they were behind bars.

He alleged that they were kept in their cells with their hands tied behind their backs so they could not even go to the toilet. While Ebrahim admitted being in Grassy Park at the time of the incident, the Pagad leader said he was nowhere near where the shooting occurred.

“It was news to us when we heard what happened. Police stopped our vehicle… despite the fact that witnesses reported seeing a white Jetta and people with heavy-calibre firearms being involved in the attack.”

He said they were driving a grey vehicle when they were stopped by police.

He said his family had been traumatised by the incident. Before their release Ebrahim’s wife

, Zainab, said that her husband had been at a community meeting in Mitchells Plain, which started after evening prayer.

Traut said the name of the 21-year-old had not been released because he was a victim of a crime.

Traut also refused to be drawn on the motive for the shooting, although sources inside Pagad claimed the victim was believed to be a gang member.

Hanif Loonat, chairman of the Western Cape Provincial Community Police, said the investigation was at a “sensitive stage”, and that the police did not want to jeopardise their case by releasing the name.

Police spokesman Dennis Adriao said the Hawks became involved when there were suspected links to organised crime.

According to Pagad, a bullet shell casing is alleged to have been found in the vehicle in which the three men were travelling at the time of their arrest.

A statement issued by Traut on Thursday indicated that charges of attempted murder would be laid.

Weekend Argus