By: Syed Zafar Mehdi
‘Zaria massacre was orchestrated in Israel, bankrolled by Saudi, executed by Nigerian government’
TEHRAN – Ibrahim Musa is the President of Media Forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). In this interview with Tehran Times, he talks about the illegal incarceration of IMN leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and brutal clampdown on the movement by the Mohammad Buhari government.
Q. The trial of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and three others by the Kaduna state government has been widely described as ‘mockery of justice’. What is the present status of the case?
A. The case filed by the Kaduna state government is coming up for hearing again on Wednesday (July 11) at the Kaduna High Court. In the previous hearing last month, the case was adjourned because of the absence of trial judge due to bad health. So we surely don’t know whether the court will really sit and hear the trumped up charges against Sheikh and three others on Wednesday.
Q. How is the health condition of Sheikh? Does anyone of you have access to him?
A. The latest news we received from his family is that his health has deteriorated further. Sheikh suffered a mild stroke in January, and he even made mention of it while talking to some journalists in Abuja – Nigerian capital. However, after being shifted to Kaduna from Abuja, his condition has gone from bad to worse. Now, there is no direct contact between him and his close family members. Even the occasional visits by his family members have been banned. We are really concerned about his health and we don’t know what he is going through in the illegal detention.
Q. Sheikh’s house was torched and razed to ground on the night of December 12 2015, he was brutally assaulted and arrested on bogus charges, which was followed by the deadly Zaria massacre. Do you believe the script was written in Riyadh and executed by the Kaduna government?
A. We have said this many times that the brutal military crackdown on the Islamic Movement was planned and orchestrated outside Nigeria. We felt vindicated when the crown prince of Saudi Arabia bragged in an interview with Time magazine that they have successfully decimated Iran’s influence in Africa by over 90 percent. It was a clear admission of Saudi Arabia’s complicity in the military crackdown on IMN. Survivors of the attack have narrated harrowing stories of how soldiers shooting at them were rejoicing that there were no more Shias left in the country. It is now an open secret that the script of Zaria massacre was written in Israel, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and executed by Buhari’s administration.
Q. Despite such a monumental struggle against a powerful state backed by the U.S., Israel and Arab monarchies, you took recourse to the legal route to demand your fundamental rights. Do you have faith in country’s judiciary?
A: Yes we have complete faith in our country’s judiciary. We won a historic judgment at a federal high court in Abuja in 2016. The court ordered release of our respected leader and ordered damages from the federal government. However, the main obstacle in getting justice in our case is the Buhari’s administration, which has left no stone unturned in denying us justice.
Q. So Sheikh had been declared free after winning a landmark judgment from the Abuja High Court, but the federal government ignored court orders. Can you tell us more about what actually happened?
A. The historic judgment was delivered by Justice Kolawole in our favor. The case took over a year to complete, and we were patient enough to see it through. The judge was clear when he said that there is no law in Nigeria that allows the continued detention of our leader Sheikh Zakzaky. He even said that since our leader’s home had been razed down, a new one should be built for him in any town of his preference. It is really unfortunate that the federal government refused to obey the courts orders.
Q. Free Zakzaky movement has gained momentum across the world but still the government in Nigeria remains unfazed. What are your most important demands from the Nigerian government?
A. The fact that the federal government has refused to accede to our demand is a pointer to our earlier disposition that the attempt to exterminate the movement is not the doing of Buhari’s government alone. They wait for their paymasters to instruct them on the way to proceed. Our most important demand is the unconditional and immediate release of our leader, and hundreds of those who are in detention since the December 2015 Zaria massacre. Secondly, all the perpetrators of this dastardly crime must be brought to book, and the mass graves dug by the military in collaboration with the state government be handed over to us for proper investigation and possible identification of the victims.
Q. As you pointed out, since the December 2015 carnage, hundreds of IMN members have been languishing in jails. How is their condition? Have they been subjected to custodial torture as reported?
A. As of now, there are over 300 members of the Islamic Movement languishing behind bars, majority of them were arrested during the military crackdown in December 2005, and many were arrested during our peaceful protests to demand the release of our leader. Most of them did suffer gunshot wounds and torture at the hands of security forces. And typical of most Nigerian detention centers, no medical aid is made available to them. The detainees have suffered torture mostly at the hands of military and police’s secret agents. The accounts given by the survivors, reported in the media, are absolutely horrifying.
Q. How has been the role of Nigerian media in highlighting atrocities unleashed by the Kaduna government against Shias in general and IMN members in particular?
A. The media in Nigeria has given ample coverage to our struggle, and many publications have often written editorials in our favor. The press is not expected to side with the oppressor. Though, there are paid elements that carry out smear campaign against us in the media at the behest of the government.
Q. What are the main charges slapped by the Kaduna government against Sheikh and his wife?
A. In the eight bogus charges filed at the Kaduna High Court, Sheikh and three others were alleged to have abetted the commission of culpable homicide punishable with death by members of the Islamic Movement in December 2015. Other charges were those of abetting unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint, and disturbance of public peace, voluntarily causing grievous hurt without provocation and inciting disturbances. Further, they were also accused of promotion of unlawful assembly. We believe all these charges were drafted to serve as an excuse to the continued illegal detention of Sheikh.
Q. Do you see any hope of justice being delivered in the near future?
A: The way this case has been instituted, the way it is being presented in the court, we are not very optimistic. Also, the case is coming up in Kaduna state, whose government is deeply involved in the Zaria massacre. But, our team of lawyers is doing everything they can possibly do to get justice.