As members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, on Wednesday staged a protest in Abuja to mark the 500th day of the detention of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has joined them to call for the release of the detainees.
Members of the group held a peaceful protest march from the Unity Fountain to the main entrance of the National Assembly on Wednesday in continuation of their agitation of the release of their leader and his wife who were taken into custody after a violent clash between members of the Shiite Islamic group and the Nigerian Army in Zaria in December 2014.
At least 347 members of the IMN were killed by soldiers in the 2014 incident.
In a public letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, Mr. Falana, who is Mr. El-Zakzaky’s lawyer, demanded freedom for the detained persons who have not been charged for any offence.
Read the letter below:
REQUEST FOR THE RELEASE OF SHEIKH IRRAHEEM ELZAKZAKY AND HIS WIFE FROM ILLEGAL DETENTION
We are solicitors to Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife, Ibraheema Elzakzaky, on whose behalf we write this letter.
- On December 12, 2015 the Nigerian Army unleashed unmitigated violence on the Shiites in Zaria, Kaduna State under the pretext that there was a plot to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, General Yussuf Baratai. During the violent arrack the Army massacred 347 Shiites including children.
- Aided by the Kaduna state government the Nigerian Army secretly buried the dead bodies of the victims of the barbaric attack in an unmarked grave without any autopsy whatsoever. Up till now, the bereaved families of the deceased have not been informed of the extrajudicial execution of their loved ones.
- Although Sheikh Elzakzaky was not at the scene of the violent attack the official assailants invaded his residence at Zaria, set the house ablaze shot at our clients and killed three of their children in their presence. Thereafter, the Kaduna state government proceeded to demolish the burnt residence of our clients and thereby rendered them homeless.
- While they were soaked in their own blood out clients were handed over by the Army to the State Security Service which took them to a detention centre in Abuja where they have since been detained without any trial. Owing to lack of medical attention In detention Sheikh Elzakzaky has lost his right eye.
- In a bid to cover up the unprecedented atrocities perpetrated by the Army and the Kaduna state government, our clients were deliberately prevented from testifying before the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by Governor Nasir Elrufai to probe the incident.
- However, during the proceedings of the Judicial Commission the Nigerian Army was unable to substantiate the monstrous allegation that the Shiites had planned to assassinate General Baratai. Upon coming to the conclusion that the massacre was premeditated the Commission recommended that the murderers be fished out and prosecuted for culpable homicide.
- In an arrogant display of impunity the Nigerian Army and the Kaduna state government have refused to prosecute the military personnel who perpetrated the brutal and cold murder of 347 Nigerian citizens.
- As our clients’ detention could not be justified in law we filed an application at the Federal High Court to secure the enforcement of their fundamental right to personal liberty, dignity and fair hearing guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.
- In a considered judgment delivered on December 2, 2016 the Federal High Court declared the detention of our clients illegal and unconstitutional and ordered their release from the custody of the State Security Service within 45 days from the date of the judgment.
- The Federal Government was also ordered to provide a temporary accommodation for our clients on account of the unchallenged evidence that the Army and the Kaduna had burnt down and demolished their residence. Furthermore, the court awarded N50 million as reparation for the illegal arrest and detention of our clients.
- Although the Federal Government claims to operate under the Rule of Law, it has treated the said orders of the Federal High Court with contempt. As if that is not enough, some public officers have contemptuously justified the continued detention of our clients without any legal basis whatsoever.
- In Your Excellency’s New Year Message delivered to the Nigerian people on January 1, 2017 you said inter alia:
“As for our brothers and sisters of the Shia Community, we urge them too, to embrace peace. They must accept the laws of the country they live in. They cannot be island by themselves. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies must treat them humanely and according to the rule of law.”
- But contrary to Your Excellency’s admonition the law enforcement agencies have refused to treat members of the Shia community “humanely and according to the rule of law.” In particular, the State Security Service has refused to comply with the order of the Federal High Court to the effect that Sheikh Elzakzaky and his wife be released from further detention. Similarly, the Nigeria Police Force has violently disrupted the peaceful rallies convened by the members of the Shia Community to press for the release of their detained leader from illegal detention. Thus, while exercising their freedom of expression the protesters have been subjected to degrading treatment by the Police.
In view of the commitment of your administration to end impunity in the country we urge Your Excellency to use your good offices to direct the State Security Service to release our clients from further incarceration in compliance with the orders of the Federal High Court. We also pray Your Excellency to direct the Nigerian Army to investigate and prosecute the military personnel responsible for the brutal murder of 347 members of the Shia Community at Zaria in December 2015.
Should Your Excellency refuse to ensure compliance with the said orders of the Federal High Court we shall be compelled to embark on contempt proceedings against the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as well as the Director-General of State Security Service. If the military personnel indicted by the Judicial Commission of Enquiry are not prosecuted we shall request the Special Prosecutor of the ICC to put then on trial for crimes against humanity.
While awaiting your Excellency’s favourable reply to our request, please accept the assurances of our highest esteem and regards.