Nigerian authorities taking steps to free detained Muslim leader


IHRC has welcomed reports coming from the family of the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, and his wife Zeenah that moves are finally underway to release the pair so that the sheikh in particular can access urgently needed life-saving medical treatment outside the country.

A statement issued by their sole surviving son Mohammad says that Nigerian authorities have opened negotiations with prominent officials to effect their release but also expresses dismay that the wheels are turning much slower than necessary.

“I wish to use this opportunity to urge them to spare no effort to speed up the process as time has clearly run out in medical terms. Although even now their health has continued to deteriorate, I can at least say that there is a process currently taking place”, he states.

Nigeria’s apparent turnaround comes after massive protests this week inside the country and internationally including Indonesia, Canada, Pakistan and the UK, by supporters of Sheikh Zakzaky forcing authorities to enter negotiations to agree the terms of his release. One demonstrator was shot dead yesterday in Nigeria after security forces opened fire with live ammunition at protestors marching in Abuja in support of the sheikh.

If they are released, the immediate priority for Sheikh Zakzaky will be to leave the country to receive treatment for the critical levels of lead and cadmium toxicity found in his body.

The pair’s release will mark an important and hard-won victory for supporters who have long sought their freedom and for the sheikh to receive the necessary medical treatment. To date Nigerian authorities have repeatedly refused requests for him to travel abroad. This is in spite of the fact that in January this year a judge presiding over the trial of Sheikh Zakzaky ordered that he should be allowed to receive medical treatment from doctors of his own choosing.

Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky has already lost sight in one eye and the use of one arm after receiving four gunshot injuries during the December 2015 massacre by the Nigerian military of over 1000 followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. The lead toxicity is believed to be a direct result of the shrapnel from bullets left in his body.

In late 2016 a federal court ruled the couples’ detention unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the government to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation. That order was never implemented and the charges were brought against the couple in 2018. In reality, the charges are designed to deflect government responsibility for the planned and systematic 2015 attack by soldiers which is now the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.

IHRC urges the Nigerian authorities to expedite the release process so that the couple can get the medical treatment they require at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime IHRC urges campaigners everywhere to continue their efforts to exert pressure on the Nigerian authorities until such a time that the pair are free and out of Nigeria.

Notes to Editors:

The full statement by Mohammad Ibraheem Zakzaky reads:

12 July 2019
Since my last writing dated 7th July 2019, in which I spoke of the disturbingly deteriorating state of my parents’ health; members of our Family including myself have been contacted by “prominent officials in Authority.” They promised to take all necessary steps to allow us to adequately attend to the urgent medical situation of my parents, in appropriate medical facilities outside of Nigeria. Since then certain preliminary steps have been taken by them. However a whole lot more remains to be done.
Therefore and due to the urgency of the matter which they themselves have acknowledged, I wish to use this opportunity to urge them to spare no effort to speed up the process as time has clearly run out in medical terms. Although even now their health has continued to deteriorate, I can at least say that there is a process currently taking place. Within the next few days, I myself will write an update depending on how things unfold.
Even though I can state that some progress has been made, I cannot possibly understate the urgent nature of the situation; and the undeniable need to speedily get my parents properly hospitalized. If there continues to be progress as there has been in the last 2 days I will say so, if the process becomes unreasonably slow I will say so; and if things unfortunately become deadlocked for whatever reason you will hear it from me or you will hear nothing.
Mohammed Ibraheem Zakzaky.

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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
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