Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), better known as ‘Shi’ites’ have called for the immediate release of its leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and wife, Zeenat from a correctional facility in Kaduna.
A statement by the President, Media Forum of the IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said releasing El-Zakzaky become necessary in view of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
The IMN maintained that El-Zakzaky was a “prisoner of conscience,” who deserved immediate freedom at this difficult period of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The statement read in part:
“Since the outbreak of this coronavirus pandemic, many countries all over the world have been releasing prison inmates in their thousands ostensibly to decongest them, but also as a way of releasing the innocent ones among them who were unjustly detained. By so doing, the nation receives succour from the Creator of the world because of the magnanimity.
“It is in this same vein that Nigerian government is expected to release the foremost prisoner of faith in the country and the Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who has been in detention for almost five years with ailments he sustained in the course of his arrest and detention.
“Sheikh Zakzaky deserves immediate freedom for very many reasons particularly at this difficult period that the nation is facing the scourge of Coronavirus. Chiefly among these, he remained in detention despite a 2016 federal high court ruling that declared his arrest and detention as unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of his fundamental rights.
“Two different Kaduna High Courts have since discharged and acquitted almost 200 members of the Islamic Movement, who stood trial for the same charges he is allegedly said to have aided and abetted, for which he is currently unfairly being tried as a ploy to justify his perpetual detention.
“It is a well-known fact that the Sheikh is in dire need of expert medical attention as a result of the injuries he sustained when the military attacked his residence in December 2015. He additionally suffered multiple strokes while in detention and was found to have dangerously very high levels of toxic heavy metals circulating in his system. This much has even been acknowledged by the High Court when they attempted to grant him a medical leave, which was foiled by the authorities.
“Lastly, the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and its devastating consequences on the sick and those living in appalling conditions is a cause of grave concern. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, it is the responsibility of government to seek ways of protecting the vulnerable such as the Sheikh, by granting him his immediate freedom.
“There is no better time to release the ailing Sheikh than now, given the emergency situation prevailing in the country and his dire health situation.
“We therefore unequivocally call on the federal and Kaduna state governments to do the needful by releasing him immediately.”
The Shi’ite leader and wife, despite a 2016 federal high court ruling that declared his arrest and detention as unlawful, had been held in a correctional centre since 2015.