ISLAMIC Movement in Nigeria (IMN) leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife Zinat will appear in court again on February 24 and 25 after a Kaduna high court fixed a new date for their ingoing trial in which they are facing charges of culpable homicide among others.
Since December 2015, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, the leader of Nigeria’s Shiite Muslim minority, has been in detention after being arrested following a clash between his supporters and the Nigerian Army. While in detention, 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.
Last year, he was allowed to go to India for medical treatment but after a few days returned as growing disagreements between the IMN and the accompanying Nigerian security meant prevented any operation from going ahead. Iran, the world’s largest Shiite nation has been one of Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s biggest backers and have led the campaign calling for his release.
However, despite the international campaign for his release, the Nigerian authorities have continued to hold Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife. he and his wife Zinat, are standing trial on allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other charges.
Last week, justice Gideon Kurada of the Kaduna high court hear the case at the resumed hearing and adjourned the case to allow the defendants appear in court to take their plea. Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s counsel, Femi Falana, said after the adjournment that Zinat, the second defendant was ill, therefore his clients were not in court.
Mr Falana said Justice Kurada had granted the defendants’ application to allow them access to their personal physicians to enable them to appear in court and take their plea at the next adjournment date. He added that the court had also granted the prosecution counsel’s application to amend the charges to reflect that the two other accused persons were still at large.
Adding that his clients were happy to appear, Mr Falana assured that the defendants would be in court to take their pleas on the next adjourned date, especially after their personal physicians had been allowed access to them. He said the defence ream. however, were not happy with the way the city of Kaduna was locked down by security agents every time the case came up.
On December 5, 2019, the Kaduna high court ordered the State Security Services to transfer Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife to the Nigerian Correctional Centre, Kaduna, to allow their lawyers easy access to him. Dari Bayero, the lead prosecution to the Kaduna State government, said that his team was ready for the trial with all witnesses set to testify in court.