Nigerian rights group urges unconditional release of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky

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SHAFAQNA – “Any further delay in releasing Zakzaky will represent a direct and serious affront to the rule of law, a hardening of dictatorship behavior in a democratic government and a dangerous abuse of power,” said the Executive Director of Access to Justice group, Joseph Otteh, Nation Daily reported.

Otteh went on to say that while the Kaduna State government charged over 259 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), headed by Sheikh Zakzaky, with the murder of one soldier, no military officer was charged for the killing of the group’s members.

A Nigerian court earlier this month ruled that Sheikh Zakzaky should be released unconditionally.

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria on December 2 also ruled that Zakzaky’s wife, Zeenat, should be released.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the court had come to the conclusion that the Shia cleric and his wife “have been kept against their desires, thereby resulting in the breach of their rights to liberty.”

The judge also stated that he had ordered the “immediate release” of the two “because the family house in Zaria was destroyed between December 12 and December 14, 2015.”

The prominent cleric, and his wife were taken into custody on December 14, 2115, after deadly clashes between the supporters of the IMN movement and Nigerian troops.

Nearly 350 members of the Shia movement were killed in the clashes. The sheikh was brutally injured and his house was reportedly destroyed by the army in the incident.

Kolawole said he had given 45 days for authorities to provide new accommodation for the Zakzaky family. The accommodation is to be in the town of Zaria, Kaduna state, where the family were detained, or in other parts of the state or alternatively any other part of northern Nigeria.

The judge said the State Security Service would pay each of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife $78,984 in compensation for the violation of their rights by being held in unlawful custody for nearly a year.

Last month, nearly 100 IMN supporters were killed when Nigerian forces fired live rounds and tear gas at mourners during a peaceful march ahead of the Arbaeen mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam. Authorities also destroyed a number of buildings belonging to the IMN.

The Nigerian government has stepped up its crackdown on the IMN since the December 2015 deadly incident.

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