A Kaduna High Court on Tuesday freed scores of Shiites accused of wrongdoing by the Kaduna State Government in the violence of December 2015 that led to the massacre of over 300 Shiites.
The judge, D.S. Wyom, discharged all the accused while ruling in a no case submission filed by their counsel.
The court judgement was contained in a statement by the Kaduna State Government which said it was appealing the ruling.
The Kaduna government accuses the Shiites of causing the mayhem, saying it “tendered over 70 exhibits which include guns, cutlasses, knives and IEDs and also the statement of the accused persons which were confessional in nature.”
At least one soldier was confirmed killed in the violence which occurred when hundreds of Shiites blocked a road being used by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.
At least 346 Shiites were killed by the soldiers in a massacre condemned by local and international rights groups.
No soldier or official is being prosecuted for the mass murder.
In its statement on Tuesday evening, the Kaduna government said it was dissatisfied with the ruling and will appeal it.
Read the full statement below.
Today, some accused persons charged in connection with the Zaria clashes of December 2015 were discharged by the court. The Kaduna State Ministry of Justice hereby states that it is totally dissatisfied with the ruling of the Honourable Court which it views as perverse and totally lacking in merit and shall appeal immediately to the Kaduna Judicial Division of the Court of Appeal.
In prosecuting the case, the State called 47 witnesses and tendered several exhibits. The prosecution believes that a compelling case was argued. Therefore, an appeal will be filed to challenge the ruling of the court.
On 22nd March 2016, after conclusion of investigation by the Nigeria Police, the Kaduna Government through the Attorney General’s Chambers filed a five count charge of Criminal Conspiracy, Culpable Homicide, Unlawful Assembly, Disturbance of Public Peace and Wrongful Restraint under sections 97, 221, 114, 100 and 106 of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State 1991 respectively against almost 200 members of the sect that were arrested by the Army in Zaria at the scene of crime.
Two of those charges, that is, State Vs. Mohammed Auwal Yakubu & 40 ors charge No. KDH/KAD/37C/2016 and State V. Mustapha Ibrahim & 49ors charge No. KDH/KAD/39C/2016 were assigned to the High Court No. 5 presided by Hon. Justice D.S Wyom. The two charges were later consolidated on the application of the prosecution.
The prosecution called a total of 47 witnesses, including four senior military officers who were present at the time of the commission of the offence and tendered over 70 exhibits which include guns, cutlasses, knives and IEDs and also the statement of the accused persons which were confessional in nature.
At the close of the prosecution’s case, the defendants through their counsel filed and addressed the court on No Case Submission to which the prosecution also filed and address the court.
Today, 31st July 2018, the court delivered its ruling and, despite the quality of evidence placed before the Honourable Court, ruled in favour of the accused persons and held that the totality of the evidence led by the prosecution before the court is not sufficient to warrant the accused to be called upon to enter their defence. The court therefore discharged and acquitted all the accused persons in the two consolidated charges notwithstanding that the evidence led, and the exhibits tendered, clearly linked the accused persons, including their confessional statement.
The Kaduna State Government hereby states that it is totally dissatisfied with the ruling of the Honourable Court which it view as perverse and totally lacking in merit and shall appeal immediately to the Kaduna Judicial Division of the Court of Appeal.