Nigerian Muslims have once again waged protest rally in the capital of Abuja to demand the release of top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
Calling for justice for the 65-year-old cleric, who was beaten and arrested in 2015 along with his wife on trumped-up allegations, the protesters chanted slogans in support of Zakzaky on Saturday and insisting on his immediate release from prison.
The leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has been held since December 2015 following a deadly raid by the Nigerian army troops on his residence in the country’s northern Kaduna State. He and his wife as well as a large number of his followers have been kept in custody ever since.
During the raid, Zakzaky’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed.
Zakzaky was officially charged with unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace, allegations vehemently denied by his group, known as the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered his unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
The latest protest rally for Zakzaky’s freedom came after a court in the city of Kaduna ruled earlier this month against his immediate release on bail due to his deteriorating health that requires urgent medical care.
“The court refused to grant him bail,” Zakzaky’s lawyer Maxwell Kyon said on November 7.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision,” added IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa, emphasizing that Zakzaky should have been granted bail due to poor health. “We will keep on with our protests in Abuja and other cities.”
The hearing came after several peaceful protest rallies held by IMN supporters last month to demand Zakzaky’s release. Last month, Nigerian security forces opened fire on IMN members in the capital Abuja, leaving 47 people killed.
A judicial inquiry after the 2015 brutal raid concluded that the military had killed 347 IMN members in Zaria. Soldiers buried the bodies in mass graves.
Several international organizations and human rights groups have denounced “the Zaria massacre.”