ISLAMIC Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leaders are eagerly waiting for the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky after a Kaduna high court ruled this morning that he should be granted bail to go abroad to seek medical attention.
Since December 2015, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, the leader of the Shiite IMN sect, has been in detention after being arrested following a clash between his supporters and the Nigerian Army. While in detention, however, his health has deteriorated, with the sheikh said to have lost one eye and he is also reported to have suffered several mild strokes, leading to calls for his release.
Despite several earlier court rulings asking that Sheikh El-Zakzaky be released on bail, the government has refused to budge on the matter. Iran, the world’s leading Shiite nation, has offered medical treatment to Sheikh El-Zakzaky and over the last three weeks, its members have been camping outside the Nigerian high commission in London, demanding the release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky.
This morning, the IMN secured a massive victory when Justice Darius Khobo of the Kaduna High Court ruled that Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat should be granted leave to travel abroad for medical treatment. In his ruling, he directed officials of the Kaduna State government to accompany Sheikh El-Zakzaky during the medical trip.
Abdurrahman Abubakar, the chairman of the Yola branch of the Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee, said the ruling was not only a vindication that leaving all doors open to obtain favourable outcomes works but a victory for their dogged determination, patience and perseverance in the face of extreme persecution. He added that the ruling is a victory for truth and justice against tyranny and impunity.
Mr Abubakar said: “It will be recalled that the applicants are known to be clearly very ill in detention, consequent on the brutal wounds unjustifiably inflicted on them by the state agents in the name of Nigerian Army, the resultant prolonged dehumanising detention in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) and the obvious poisoning of the Sheikh. As a result of all these physical and psychological stresses, the sheikh suffered a series of mild strokes and is at the risk of further recurrences.
“Meanwhile, he lost one eye following the military attack and is at a severe risk of losing sight completely in the other. He is now found to have more than 20 times the toxic levels of lead poison in his body and similarly, the wife has been under excruciating pains with shrapnel deeply lodged in her body for all these years of inhuman conditions in detention.
“She now is able to ambulate only with the use of a wheelchair and both of them were not even able to make it to the court in the last two sittings. They have been battling ailments that could not be treated in Nigeria, as posited by the foreign medical experts that earlier in the year assessed their health condition.
“With this recent ruling by the court today, we will finalise urgent plans to transfer them to a more appropriate foreign health facility for further expert management as we await the response of the Nigerian government. We expect them to act urgently to respect the Nigerian constitution and the ruling of this honourable court to grant the duo instant permit to travel for their treatment.
“As a peaceful movement, we have kept to our clean tradition of keeping faith with due process in seeking redress through peaceful means without any resort to violence despite deliberate and persistent provocations by the government. We wish to use this opportunity to also say a big thank you to all people of conscience, particularly some very senior citizens, diplomats, human rights activists and organisations, journalists and the general public who doggedly stood by us in the campaign for justice for the victims of Zaria genocide.”
Sheikh El-Zakzaky and Zeenat are now expected to travel to India for treatment, although Justice Khobo did not specify how long they are to stay there for. In the ruling, the judge did not offer a leaving date either.
Counsel to the Kaduna State government, Dari Bayero said the prosecution team would go back and study the judgment to see if they should appeal the ruling. Femi Falana, Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s counsel, said the ruling was just to grant the IMN leader and his wife leave to seek medical attention abroad and not an outright bail.