Calls mount for immediate release of Nigerian cleric Sheikh Zakzaky
A Nigerian human rights lawyer has called for the immediate and unconditional release of senior Shia cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
In a Tuesday letter to the director general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Femi Falana said that Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat should be freed from “illegal detention” within 24 hours.
Zakzaky and his wife have been in detention since December last year.
The clergyman is said to have been charged with “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances.”
Falana said “even though our clients have not been told that they breached any law, they have been denied access to their lawyers, personal physicians, and family members for over three months.”
“Our clients were only permitted to meet with us last Friday after several requests made by us had been turned down without any legal basis,” he added.
Falana further noted that Zakzaky had lost his left eye due to the brutal attacks during his arrest, and that the doctors “are currently battling to save the right” eye.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Zakzaky.
The London-based NGO slammed the persecution of Sheikh Zakzaky and his Islamic Movement in Nigeria as an affront to all civilized and democratic values.
It also urged the Nigerian government to bring to justice all those responsible for the unprovoked attacks on Zakzaky and his supporters.
On December 12, 2015, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
The following day, Nigerian forces raided the Sheikh Zakzaky’s home and arrested him after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him, including one of IMN’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
Both incidents led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of the cleric’s sons. Human rights organizations have urged a full investigation into the deadly assaults.
According to Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Nigerian military secretly buried hundreds of bodies in the graves after storming Zakzaky’s house.