The Nigerian government has approached the Appeal Court to challenge a High Court ruling that mandated the release of the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Mr. El-Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015, by soldiers, following a clash between the Shiite movement and the army over right of way. Over 300 IMN members were killed by the soldiers. Various human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the killings.
A year later, on December 2, 2016, an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court ordered the release of Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife who have been held without trial for over a year. The court also ordered that accommodation be provided for them and that the government pays them N50 million as compensation for violating their rights. These were to be done within 45 days from the day of the ruling.
However, the Nigerian Government is yet to comply with the order, almost three months after it was issued.
The confirmation of the government’s appeal was made by Mr. El-Zakzaky’s lawyer, Femi Falana, in an open letter sent to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the appeal by the government does not amount to a stay of execution of the ruling. He said by asking the high court to suspend its ruling, the federal government was still violating the direct order of the court.
“Although the deadline expired on January 16, 2017 the State Security Service has refused to release our clients from custody in utter contempt of the valid and subsisting order of the Federal High Court. The Federal Government has equally refused to comply with the other terms of the judgment,” the lawyer said.
“However, we are not unaware that your office has filed an appeal against the said judgment at the Court of Appeal. But since the filing of the appeal has not varied or suspended the orders of the learned trial judge you are duty bound to advise the Federal Government to comply with the clear and unambiguous terms of the judgment.
“In view of the avowed commitment of the Buhari administration to operate under the rule of law we urge you to use your good offices to ensure that our clients are released from illegal incarceration without any further delay. However, if our request is not granted forthwith we shall not hesitate to pray the Court of Appeal to refuse to entertain the appeal filed by your office against the judgment of the Federal High Court until the Federal Government has purged of the contempt of the Federal High Court,” Mr. Falana said.
Efforts to reach Mr. Malami’s spokesperson, Salihu Isah, were unsuccessful as Mr. Isah neither picked nor returned his calls. He also did not respond to a text message confirming the appeal.