New calls for Sheikh Zakzaky’s immediate release

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SHAFAQNA – Lawyers who have gained access to the detained leader of Nigeria’s Islamic Movement (IMN) have called on the Nigerian government to release him unconditionally and without delay.

Femi Falana was among a group of activist lawyers recently allowed to see Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky who has been held incommunicado without charge since 14 December 2014 when soldiers attacked his residence shooting the cleric and his wife Zeenat.

Three of Sheikh Zakzaky’s children were killed in front of him when troops set fire to his residence in Zaria and invaded his family home.

According to Falana, both the Sheikh and Zeenat have undergone several operations to address injuries caused by bullet wounds. Sheikh Zakzaky is also battling to save his right eye, having lost sight in the left one as a result of the attack.

Thousands of soldiers unleashed a three-day orgy of violence on members of the IMN on December 12 last year in what was widely seen as a bid to curb the movement’s growing popularity. At least 1000 civilians were killed in the attacks which the army falsely accused the IMN of starting by trying to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai.

Neither Zakzaky or Hajia Zeenat were anywhere near the alleged incident involving the general and neither have been charged with any crimes. Yet both were subject to savage attacks and have been held without charge and without access to proper medical attention for over three months. Moreover, to add insult to injury, IMN members who survived the brutal army onslaught have been charged with offences including culpable homicide by the state government.

IHRC joins Falana in calling for the sheikh’s immediate and unconditional release. The persecution of Zakzaky and the IMN is an affront to all civilised and democratic values, including the rule of law, that Nigeria claims to uphold.

IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “The government of President Buhari has repeatedly stressed the necessity for all Nigerians to abide by the law and the constitution. If that desire is not to remain a hollow slogan he must put it into practice by immediately releasing Sheikh Zakzaky, his wife and all other detainees and bringing to justice all those responsible for the unprovoked attacks on the IMN.”

IHRC has referred the events in Zaria to the International Criminal Court asking it to open a preliminary war crimes investigation into the massacre. IHRC believes that the army’s assault was a systematic and pre-planned attempt to undermine the IMN whose growing popularity has made it a thorn in the side of Nigerian governments. A similar army assault in July 2014 during a religious procession led to the deaths of 34 IMN members including three sons of Sheikh Zakzaky who were apparently singled out for execution.

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