The Nigerian state of Kaduna has declared a mainstream Shia group led by Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky as illegal as a state crackdown against the Muslim community continues.
The Kaduna state government warned on Friday that those convicted of being a member of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) could be imprisoned for seven years, fined or both.
It further claimed that the Shia group had “overtly continued with unlawful processions” and “obstruction of public highways” since last December when the Army forces clashed with the IMN members.
“These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute danger to the peace, tranquility, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna state,” the Nigerian state added.
On December 12, 2015, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria in Kaduna, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
The following day, Nigerian forces also raided the home of the IMN leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, and arrested the prominent cleric after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him.
A judicial inquiry concluded in August that the Nigerian army killed 348 members of the religious community during the two-day raids.
Back in April, UK-based rights group Amnesty International published evidence revealing how the Nigerian military burned people alive, razed buildings and secretly dumped victims’ bodies in mass graves in the December 2015 deadly assaults.
“The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.
Zakzaky is said to have been charged with “criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbances.”
Over the past months, Nigerians have held demonstrations across the country to demand Zakzaky’s release from jail.