Authorities say they have arrested a powerful religious leader in Senegal and 11 of his followers after two people were beaten to death.

Cheikh Bethio Thioune's arrest late Monday comes amid criticism after he married a seventh wife, three more than is allowed under Islam.

Thies Prosecutor Ibrahima Ndoye told journalists that Thioune was personally implicated in the deaths late Sunday.

However, his attorney Ousmane Seye told RFM radio that the prosecutor's comments were premature and convicted his client before a trial.

Police used tear gas Tuesday to disperse scores of Thioune's followers who were calling for his release. Powerful religious leaders known as "marabouts" hold enormous influence in this mostly Muslim West African nation.