After more than five years of trial and detention, a Kaduna High Court has discharged and acquitted Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, head of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, and his wife, Zeenat.
Justice Gideon Kurada, the trial judge upheld the no case submission filed by lawyer to El-Zakzaky, Femi Falana to the effect that the prosecutor did not establish a prima facie case against the religious leader. The trial judge therefore discharged and acquitted them and ordered their immediate release from detention.
Justice Kurada in his judgment said that the case of the prosecution is “manifestly unreliable.”
The court had on July 1, 2021 fixed July 28 for ruling in the No-case-submission filed by Falana on behalf of the defendants. Justice Kurada fixed the date after the prosecution and counsel to the defendants, addressed the court on the no case submission prayer.
The cleric was arrested after his followers clashed with Nigerian soldiers in Zaria sometime in December, 2015. The military claimed that Zakzaky’s followers had tried to assassinate the Nigerian chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai when they barricaded roads being used by Buratai’s motorcade.
The IMN denied the allegations and has posted graphic pictures on its website of what it says are the bodies of “dozens” of its members killed by the military. The group also said that Zakzaky’s wife and son were among the dead. (On Monday afternoon, the army told the press that Zakzaky’s wife is alive and in custody with her husband, but did not confirm or deny the death of his son.)
According to AFP, Zakzaky’s home and the IMN’s main mosque in Zaria were also destroyed in the violence. And members of the sect told the BBC Hausa Service on Monday that bodies of those killed were being removed by the military.
The Army denied the allegations and claimed the troops were forced to act when hundreds of armed IMN members blocked the path of a military convoy and begun attacking it. “The troops were left with no choice other than to defend him and the convoy at all cost[s] as well as open up the barricaded road for law-abiding citizens,” the Army said in a statement.
In July 2014, a clash between the Shiite movement and soldiers during a pro-Palestinian rally in Zaria left 34 people dead, including three of Zakzaky’s sons. The army claimed at the time that it had acted in self-defence.