The United States has classified the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, as political prisoners.
This is according to the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued by the US State Department on Tuesday.
The report read in part, "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 by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
He was detained without trial for several months 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 lived with them before they were arrested within the 45 days period. The judge ordered that the accommodation be provided in Zaria, Kaduna State, or in other parts 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 the Kaduna State Government arraigned him in April 2018 on eight counts bordering on culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of the public peace, among others. However, no army officer was brought to book for the killings.