Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to comply with a court ruling that calls for an end to the “unlawful” detention of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the country’s top Shia Muslim cleric.
“Zakzaky is being unlawfully detained,” Amnesty Nigeria director Makmid Kamara said on Monday, adding that the Nigerian government would “demonstrate a flagrant — and dangerous — contempt for the rule of law” if it ignored a December ruling by an Abuja court, which called the detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his followers illegal and unconstitutional.
The Nigerian court has imposed a 45-day deadline for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky and hundreds of his supporters. The deadline expires later on Monday.
Sheikh Zakzaky, who leads the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), was arrested more than a year ago during raids by the Nigerian army on peaceful gatherings of IMN members in the northern city of Zaria. Human rights groups say nearly 350 IMN members were killed in the army raids. The Nigerian military has rejected the death toll.
Amnesty said the government in Nigeria could extend Zakzaky’s detention on trumped-up charges in a bid to justify the crackdown on IMN members in Zaria in Kaduna State.
“This might be part of a wider effort to cover up the gruesome crimes committed by members of the security forces in Zaria in December 2015 that left hundreds dead,” said Kamara.
The government in Abuja has yet to react to Amnesty’s call for Zakzaky’s release. Officials in the Kaduna State Government have accused the cleric and IMN supporters of committing “acts of lawlessness” over the past 30 years, charges that Nigeria’s judges have dismissed.