The incident took place on Tuesday as security forces fired live ammunition and teargas to disperse the supporters and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), led by Sheikh Zakzaky, in the capital city.
A witness told The Cable, a Nigerian online newspaper, that the protesters pelted the police officers with stones as they tried to disperse them, and then the security operatives started to fire tear gas and released bullets into the air.
“The police shot into the air. It was that bullet that hit the man on the head. Immediately after the first shot was fired, they all dispersed,” the witness said.
Chanting slogans against the government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the protesters held portraits of Zakzaky as well as banners condemning the cleric’s imprisonment.
Zakzaky, who is in his mid-60s, has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.
During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.
Zakzaky was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, the disruption of public peace, and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all the accusations brought up against him.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
The IMN members say the Nigerian government has turned a deaf ear to all protests calling for the top cleric’s release.
The trial of Sheikh Zakzaky is expected to continue on February 6, 2020, with his supporters saying authorities should speed up the proceedings due to the cleric’s deteriorating health.