22 September 2016
PRESS RELEASE – Nigeria: Peaceful procession in support of detained IMN leader ambushed by military
IHRC is demanding that the Nigerian authorities immediately release hundreds of people it has detained as they made their way to the capital, Abuja, to take part in a demonstration against the continued detention of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, his wife and over 200 IMN supporters, all held since December 2015.
Tens of thousands of supporters of the sheikh took part in the procession in the capital today but countless others were stopped by armed forces at the entrance of the capital as they arrived in buses.
While the exact number of those stopped and detained by the army in Abuja is unclear, it is believed to be in the hundreds. Latest reports from the Free Zakzaky Movement indicate that they are being held in military barracks in the city.
Within 30 minutes of the procession starting, soldiers flanked by police fired tear gas grenades into the crowds, apparently to stop them proceeding to the Central Secretariat area where government buildings are located. When the tear gas failed to stop the procession continuing, the army started to physically stop people in the procession. It is believed that at this stage a number of people were arrested, though this is yet to be confirmed.
There are reports of injuries but their extent and number is not yet known. Reports are still coming in about the extent and nature of the police and army action.
Today’s demonstration is the latest initiative in an ongoing campaign to secure the release of Sheikh Zakzaky as concerns mount over his health after more than nine months in custody without charge along with his wife Zeenah.
Both suffered gunshot wounds after a savage military assault against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) last December. Sheikh Zakzaky has already lost the use of an arm and one of his eyes and there is a real risk he could lose his sight completely if he doesn’t receive the necessary medical treatment.
Despite repeated requests by the Sheikh’s legal team, Nigeria’s domestic intelligence agency (DSS) which is holding the sheikh, has refused to let him have access to doctors.
The military attack between December 12-14 in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria left more than 1000 people dead and many properties and religious spaces belonging to the IMN and its members destroyed.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “The attack today represents yet another unjustified attack on the IMN and its supporters. It is a flagrant violation of the right to free assembly and free speech. These transgressions are only possible because the government has created a climate in which atrocities against the IMN can go unpunished. We call on the government to release immediately all of today’s detainees along with the Sheikh, Zeenah Zakzaky and the supporters of the IMN held since December.”
Notes to editors:
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In March 2016 IHRC petitioned the International Criminal Court to to open a preliminary inquiry into the December 2015 massacre of IMN members.
Our report which we submitted to the ICC can be found here