PRESS STATEMENT: Sheikh El-Zakzaky Deserves Release Not Trial

Our attention has been drawn to an editorial by the respected national newspaper Sunday Trust of 25/09/16, wherein a call for the trial of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky was made, instead of his outright release from illegal detention. We wouldn’t have joined issues with the newspaper, had it not been for the glaring contradiction in its stand on the Zaria massacre carried out by the Army in December 2015.

For a start, Sunday Trust acknowledged that “Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky has been detained since the December clashes, apparently by the Department of State Services [DSS], and has not been charged to court for any offence for more than nine months. This very clearly violates the constitutional stipulation that a person should not be detained for more than 48 hours before he or she is charged to court.” From the foregoing, any person with clear conscience expects the newspaper to call for the release of the Sheikh not his trial. Any charge that couldn’t be brought forward within 48 hours as stipulated by the Constitution is a trump up charge, talk less of after nine months.

Having said that, it seems the reasoning of the writers of the Editorial was blurred by this assumption, “It was the Shi’ites’ blocking the path for General Buratai, who was on his way to attend the passing-out parade of the 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot, Nigeria Army, Zaria that led to the bloody clashes,” as stated in the Editorial. We insist there was never a road blockade of the Chief of army staff, General Buratai. What happened that day was that the General bumped into a conflict zone, since before he arrived, some soldiers stationed opposite our Islamic centre, Husainiyya, fired on members of IMN, killing seven instantly. Anybody passing that busy highway knew that we were not in the habit of blocking it whenever we have a religious gathering at the Centre for the past five years we have moved to the place. Moreover the programme scheduled for that day hasn’t even started when the COAS arrived.

The so-called ‘road blockage’ was staged and used as a smoke screen to “stop the…Shia” as mouthed by President Muhammad Buhari on Al-Arabia Channel, when he visited Qatar some months back. Even on this gimmick, the IMN cannot be victimised as sole offender. All religious, social and political organisations in their gatherings are ‘road blockers’ too.

Also what happened within those tragic two days wasn’t a clash between the army and members of IMN. It was a clearly orchestrated attack on the movement by the army. The casualty figures speak for themselves. Over 1000 were massacred in cold blood by the army, while no soldier was killed by IMN. People were roasted alive, women and children killed, buildings destroyed all belonging to the IMN, with the soldiers having a field day. How can this tragic event be called clash?

Note that despite all the things they acknowledged were on our side, they are only relying on what they termed “Shi’ites are believed by most Nigerians, including their neighbours in Zaria, the police, the Army and the Government to be essentially lawless, who do not recognise the Constitution of the Federal Republic or the sovereignty of the Nigerian state..” Hence they didn’t call for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, even though reason, logic, the law the Constitution, conscience and propriety will suggest that is what should be done. However Sunday Trust will rather go by the belief of soldiers, police, Zaria hired crowd and so on to prosecute Sheikh Zakzaky, just as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and lately NHRC have tried in vain to suggest. They are only amplifying what these biased reports are saying, and that is to prosecute the victims.

Its disheartening that a group whose over 1000 members were killed, but resorted to seeking redress in competent courts of the land and other civil protests allowed by the constitution will be termed a lawless group. Is there any group of people in the country that has remained calmed after what IMN has gone through in extra judicial killings?

Based on what Sunday Trust said about the Zaria massacre, it should at least have toyed the line of other National newspapers like, Thisday, The Guardian and The Punch, who have all called the Sheikh’s release as demanded by IMN since he is not accused of committing any crime. For the newspaper to state that, “Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky should be immediately charged to court for whatever crimes he is believed to have committed,” we find it objectionable. He should rather be released immediately and unconditionally.

SIGNED BY
IBRAHIM MUSA
PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF IMN
0805 078 6093
26/09/16