United States of America’s Department of State has designated the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, as political prisoners.
The position of the US is contained in the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices of countries issued by the US State Department on Tuesday.
The implication is that the US government would now take more interest in issues between the detainees and the government with a view to take whatever action it deems proper to force the hand of government to safeguard the rights of the affected detainees who are viewed as being persecuted by the state.
In the statement obtained by DAILY RIPPLES, the US government gave a catalogue of series of breaches to the fundamental rights and liberties of the affected persons by the Federal Government.
“Political prisoners and detainees. IMN’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, and his spouse remained in detention. In 2018 the Kaduna State Government charged Zakzaky in state court with multiple felonies stemming from the death of a soldier at Zaria.”
The Islamic cleric was arrested in December 2015 after soldiers clamped down on his supporters, killing at least 347 of them, including his children. The army accused them of blocking a public road being used then by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
He was detained without trial for several months without trial causing his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), to file a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
In December 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole ordered that El-Zakzaky and his wife be released from detention into an accommodation that must be provided for them within 45 days.
Justice Kolawole awarded N25m each, totalling N50m, to the Shi’ite leader and his wife for the violation of their rights by being held in unlawful custody.
He ordered the Federal Government to provide a befitting accommodation for the applicants, their family members and followers who used to live with them before they were arrested, within the 45 days period. The judge ordered that the accommodation must be provided in Zaria, Kaduna State, or in other part of the state or alternatively in any other part of northern Nigeria.
The Federal Government, however, ignored the judgment.
He remained in custody for another 17 months until he was arraigned by the Kaduna State Government in April 2018 on eight counts bordering on culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among others. However, no army officer was brought to book for the killings