A Saint John basketball star is trapped in Mali after he returned to his native country in March to be with family.

Modibo Diarra, who plays for the National Basketball League’s Saint John Mill Rats, flew to Mali in March to be with his family after a military coup in the West African country.

Amnesty International says since then, there have been executions, rapes and other human rights violations.

Diarra is afraid to leave the country without taking his wife and daughter with him.

Businesses and fans of Diarra in Saint John are now trying to find a way to get them back to Canada.

David Cooper, the owner of the Saint John basketball team, said Diarra has left a mark on many people who have met him.

"I love him. We love him. He's one of those people who you cannot but love. He has a way of uplifting you in a day," Cooper said.

"He'll come arms wide open, wants to give you a hug or say, "How ya doing.’ He just makes your day. And there's so much going on in his life and you would never know just by the kind of person he is."

Diarra is a six-foot-10-inch forward with the Mill Rats. Even though he is considered one of the team’s star players, Mill Rats wages are not very high.

Diarra has been using his pay to support 22 family members who are still in Mali.

He can't afford the legal costs of securing visas or the airfares to get out.

Fundraising fans

There are a number of fundraisers planned in Saint John to help collect money to help bring Diarra back to New Brunswick. 

Ruth Rayburn-Arseneault has been so moved by Diarra's story that she's decided to auction off pieces of her art collection, including a treasured Ray Butler. 

She's also organizing a multicultural dinner in Rothesay in June.

"In the short time that I've known him, he has hit a spot in my heart. We know the danger he's in and we want to get him out of there," she said.

"A whole group of us, not just me, we're all working together to get him out."