By Oladapo Okeowo
Amnesty International have said that the Nigerian authorities have no choice but to immediately comply with the High Court order for the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah Ibraheem, from detention.
Though yet to be charged, the couple have been in detention for more than a year following a violent clash between the IMN and the Nigerian military.
The authorities claim he is being held in “protective custody”.
According to Makmid Kamara, Interim Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, the government’s compliance is non-negotiable as the 45-day ultimatum for their release expires today. Therefore, a non-compliance would be a “flagrant – and dangerous – contempt for the rule of law,” after the court had ruled that the detention was illegal and unconstitutional.
In his opinion, “El-Zakzaky is being unlawfully detained. This might be part of a wider effort to cover up the gruesome crimes committed by members of the security forces in Zaria in December 2015 that left hundreds dead.”
The IMN is a Shiite religious and political organisation whose leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, has been a proponent of Shi’a Islam in Nigeria since the 1980s.
The group regularly held processions and demonstrations to propagate their form of Islam, sometimes without permits and instituting road blocks. This strained their relationship with the authorities and surrounding communities.
However, things came to a head December 2015 when elements of the group clashed with members of the Nigerian military.
This ended badly for the IMN as Amnesty International claim over 350 IMN members were killed in the fight that lasted from December 12-14, 2015.
Amnesty International also called for the release of other IMN supporters arrested and detained without any formal charge.