The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has made a fresh demand for the release of its leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenatu Ibraheem, from detention by the Federal Government. It also demanded an end to the persecution of its members.

The calls were made in Abuja on Wednesday during a press conference addressed by Sheikh Abdulhamid Bello, head of the Shuhadah (Martyrs) Foundation of the IMN.

Speaking at the press conference, Sheikh Bello insisted that the Federal Government and its agencies must release Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife unconditionally and in accordance with the 2 December 2016 judgment of the Federal High Court. 

Sheikh Bello explained that the Federal Government is duty-bound to show Nigerians that it is committed to strengthening democracy in the country by demonstrating respect for the rule of law. He warned that serial disobedience of court orders and contempt for citizens’ religious freedom will portray the country as unprepared and ill-equipped to manage religious diversity. 

The group also warned the Kaduna State government to halt the persecution of over 350 of its members currently facing homicide charges before the Kaduna State High Court. The IMN described as wobbly the grounds on which the charges were filed, saying the claim that its 350 members killed one soldier was laughable, when the Kaduna State government participated in the illegal burial of over 1000 of its members.

It added that the government has failed to prosecute those responsible for the killing of its members. The IMN also cautioned the government against attempts to infiltrate its ranks.

“The Federal Government and the Kaduna State government have been and continue to engage in provocative acts aimed at inciting the Movement to take to the path of violence in vain. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria assures the Nigerian public that any act of violence attributed to it can only emanate from agent provocateurs being injected into the Movement by state agents,” said Sheikh Bello. 

The IMN thanked the human rights community and professional groups for their support and called on them to persuade the government to release El-Zakzaky and his wife and withdraw all charges against its members. It equally called on the international community to convince the Federal Government to obey court orders and respect religious freedoms. The group similarly appealed to Nigerians to prevail of the government to release El-Zakzaky, who requires medical help to avoid going blind in detention.

“The Nigerian Army destroyed his left eye and he can hardly see with the right one. Unless our leader is released to seek medical help, he will completely go blind in the custody of the Department of State Services," Sheikh Bello said.

On 2nd December 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja gave judgment ordering the release of El-Zakzaky and his wife within 45 days of the judgment.

The court declared as illegal their detention since 14 December 2015, and awarded N25 million each to El-Zakzaky and his wife as compensation for the trauma suffered in the hands of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Federal Government.

Ibraheem-El-Zakzaky

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