Thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets to demand the release of imprisoned Shia cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.
The demonstrators, mostly women, staged a rally in the northeastern city of Bauchi on Monday, denouncing the incarceration of the cleric, his wife and hundreds of other Muslims as illegal.
They also called for the immediate release of the dissidents currently being held in Nigerian jails.
A similar protest was also held in the town of Yauri in the northwestern state of Kebbi.
On December 12 last year, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. The Shias have categorically denied the allegations.
The following day, Nigerian forces also raided Zakzaky’s home and arrested him after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him, including one of the IMN’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
The two attacks led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons.
The IMN has vowed to continue its peaceful campaign to secure the release of Sheikh Zakzaky and the other detainees.
Last December, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said there was credible evidence of mass graves in Nigeria following the deadly attack on Shias.
The rights group said the Nigerian military had secretly buried hundreds of bodies in the graves after storming the house of the Shia cleric.
Human rights organizations have called for a full investigation into the deadly attacks by Nigerian forces.