Nigerians staged fresh protest rallies across the country to call for the immediate release of jailed Shia cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria [IMN], Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
Demonstrators took to the streets in several cities, including Zaria, Kano, Kaduna, and Yola on Thursday, in large numbers to protest against the recent killings of Shia Muslims by the Nigerian army and the continued detention of the IMN leader and members.
They denounced the imprisonment of Zakzaky and a number of his supporters as a violation of the Nigerian constitution.
Relatively, Abdulhamid Bello, spokesperson of the IMN Youth Wing, which organized the protest, said the movement’s supporters would continue to hold peaceful protests in pursuit of their demands.
It was on December 12 last year that Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in Zaria, allegedly accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
The following day, Nigerian forces raided Sheikh Zakzaky’s home and arrested him after reportedly killing those attempting to protect him. The cleric himself was injured in the attack and was taken into custody along with dozens of his supporters.
Eventually, the two attacks led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the religious community, including three of Zakzaky’s sons. Bello further slammed the judicial inquiry commission set up by the authorities in Kaduna State for hindering the IMN access to the detained members of the movement.
The movement called for Zakzaky’s unconditional release and for Abuja to respond to the “unjustifiable atrocities committed by the army.” The rights group said the Nigerian military had secretly buried hundreds of bodies in the graves after storming Sheikh Zakzaky’s house.
In parallel, human rights organizations called for a full investigation into the deadly attacks by Nigerian forces against Shia Muslims.