US labels El-Zakzaky, wife political prisoners

Ibrahim El-Zakzaky-and-wife-Zeenat

The United States Government has classified the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah as political prisoners.

The government’s position was stated on Tuesday in the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued by the US State Department.

“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 report read.

El-Zakzaky 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 Femi Falana 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.

The judge also awarded N25 million each to the Shi’ite leader and his wife for the violation of their rights by being held in unlawful custody.

But the Federal Government ignored the judgment and kept them in custody for another 17 months until they were 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.