Nigerian junta should release all political prisoners regardless of their faith


2 July 1998
For immediate release

Nigerian junta should release all political prisoners regardless of their faith.
UN should not forget Muslim prisoners of conscience.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission is calling on the new Nigerian regime of General Abubakr Salamu to release Mu’allim Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, the leader of Nigeria’s Islamic opposition, and all political prisoners from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Whilst many political prisoners from secular opposition groups, and Christian groups have been released since the demise of General Sani Abacha, no prominent members of Nigeria’s populist Islamic opposition have seen their detentions ended. IHRC notes that the majority of political detainees at the end of Abacha’s reign of terror, were Muslim activists. Hitherto these prisoners have been denied the political attention given by International organisations to their non-Muslim or secular counterparts.

IHRC welcomes the attempts by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to mediate for the releaseof all political prisoners. IHRC hopes that this includes those Muslims detained without charge or tried without due process simply for political reasons.

In a letter to General Abubakr Salamu, IHRC demands the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees, including Al-Zakzaky and the other three members of the Zaria Four. Chairman of IHRC, Massoud Shadjareh writes:

“As you are already well aware, the Zaria Four headed by Al-Zakzaky were detained for almost a year since September 1996 without charge. Subsequently their trial has been stopped and restarted on an almost monthly basis, for the prosecution to ‘gather’ new evidence. In one of the trial’s most embarassing moments, the arresting officer told the court that he found nothing at the home of Al-Zakzaky to warrant the sedition charges levelled against him and the other three.

“We urge the new Nigerian regime, to put the crimes of its predecessors to an end. You have already shown your willingness to do so, by releasing Christian and secular activists. We urge you to extend your actions to cover all sections of the Nigerian population, including those members of the Islamic opposition still incarcerated without charge or without due process.”

For more information, please contact the Press Office on 0181 931 1919, or 0958 60 74 75.