SHAFAQNA- Nigeria’s Shia community has rejected what it calls a “secret trial” of 191 people detained over a Dec. 12 stand-off between protestors and the army.
Shia spokesman Ibrahim Musa insisted in a statement on Thursday that any court case against the group’s members must be open and transparent, arguing that a secret trial could be a way of skewing proceedings against the suspects.
“Yesterday a Magistrate Court that sat in Kaduna Central Prison read out some charges against 191 brothers of the Islamic Movement that were languishing in jail for the past two months. Among the charges were illegal assembly, causing bodily harm, public disturbances and possession of firearms,” Musa said.
“The Islamic Movement objects to the way and manner the court had its first sitting in prison. The court ought to have offered the general public its reason for the unusual sitting in prison, but it did not. What happened yesterday in Kaduna Prison is akin to a secret trial where the public was denied entry to the court proceedings.
“For the court to hide under the guise of ‘security reasons’ for its sitting in prison is a travesty of justice, since justice as they say, should not only be done, but seen to be done.”
The group says the charge of possession of firearms is “particularly ridiculous” because army itself did not say guns were seized.
The Dec. 12 incident followed claims by the military of a planned assassination attempt on army chief, Tukur Buratai, at a roadblock mounted by Shia in Zaria town, northern Nigeria.
Human Rights Watch has estimated that at least 300 Shia were shot dead by troops during raids on the Islamic Movement’s headquarters.
The group’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, was arrested and has been detained alongside his wife since the incident. The Shia community claims over 730 of its members are still unaccounted for.
The army insists its handling of the incident followed its rules of engagement.
By Rafiu Ajakaye