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IHRC gives qualified welcome to court order to free IMN leader

5 December 2016 10:38

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IHRC welcomes Friday’s order by Nigerian High Court for the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, after almost a year in detention.

The court in the capital Abuja ordered that the state security services free Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah within 45 days and also pay each compensation of 25 million Naira (US$79,000).

The pair have been held without charge and mainly incommunicado following their arrest during a savage military assault against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) last December. Both were shot during the attack in Zaria in which at least 1000 IMN supporters, including three sons of the couple, were killed and many properties and religious spaces belonging to the IMN and its followers destroyed.

Sheikh Zakzaky has already lost the use of an arm and one of his eyes and his aides fear could lose his sight completely if he doesn’t receive the necessary medical treatment. Today’s decision come after Sheikh Zakzaky applied to the court for his release on the grounds that his detention by the State Security Service (SSS) was unlawful.

In making the order Justice Gabriel Kolawole rejected as “not based on law” the SSS’s contention that they were detaining Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife for their own safety. He also said that holding the sheikh while he remained in such poor health endangered his life. Should the sheikh die, he said, it could trigger public disorder that may result in heavy loss of life.

While IHRC welcomes today’s long overdue decision we are nevertheless very concerned about the continued persecution of the IMN which has seen its activities attacked, premises destroyed and followers killed and/or arrested.

It is evident that the arrest of the Zakzaky is part of an organized campaign against the IMN originating from the heart of the military, security services and state apparatus. We look forward to the release of both Sheikh Ibrahim and Zeenah Zakzaky without delay and urge the Nigerian authorities to release the many IMN supporters who remain in custody for doing nothing more than exercising their fundamental rights.

We are also concerned that despite the hundreds of killings, arrests and abuses no officials have so far been brought to account by the authorities.

In August an official Judicial commission of inquiry by the Kaduna state government into the massacre on 12-14 December 2015 accused General Officer commanding the Nigerian Army’s 1st Division, Adeniyi Oyebade, of orchestrating the military operation outside the chain of command.

IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “Without prosecuting those individuals responsible for the offences committed against the IMN, today’s decision, while welcome, will only amount to releasing individuals into an environment where they can be further persecuted. The Kaduna Commission of Inquiry and other investigations have clearly identified high-ranking state personnel who now need to be brought to justice. Not doing so will only allow them to continue their crimes.”

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