Nigerian court grants Shi’ite leader Zakzaky bail for medical care

Supporters have held frequent protests in the capital Abuja pushing for his release amid fears over his deteriorating health
Nigerian court grants Shi'ite leader Zakzaky bail for medical care

A Nigerian court on Monday granted bail to a detained Shiite leader, whose case has sparked bloody protests, so that he can fly to India for medical care, his lawyer said.

Ibrahim Zakzaky, the founder of the outlawed pro-Iranian Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), has been in detention along with his wife Zeenah Ibrahim since their arrest in December 2015.

“The judge has ordered that Zakzaky be flown to India for proper medical attention,” Femi Falana told reporters. 

A member of the defence team said his wife was also allowed abroad for treatment. 

The ruling could help defuse spiralling tensions with the group after the government banned it late last month on “terrorism” grounds after a spate of deadly clashes. 

READ: 8 killed including journalist and deputy police chief during Shi’ites protest in Nigeria

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But the authorities have already ignored previous court orders to release Zakzaky.

Prosecutors told reporters officials were studying the latest decision to see whether to appeal. 

Falana said the Shiite leader and his wife did not attend Monday’s hearing in the northern city of Kaduna because of their poor health.

“They were too sick to be physically present in court,” Falana told reporters, adding that necessary legal documents would have to be signed before they could be released. 

Zakzaky, who is believed to be aged in his mid-sixties, was arrested in 2015 after violence that rights groups say saw the army kill some 350 of his followers and bury many in mass graves.

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READ: Nigerian police fire bullets, tear gas to repel resumed Shi’ite protest

Supporters have held frequent protests in the capital Abuja pushing for his release amid fears over his deteriorating health. 

At least eight people, including six protesters, a senior police officer and a trainee journalist, were killed during protests on July 22.    

Zakzaky’s lawyers say he has lost the sight in one eye and was on the verge of going blind in the other, while he had some bullet fragments lodged in his body from the 2015 crackdown.

A court in 2016 ordered Zakzaky and his wife released — but the authorities refused and filed charges against him including homicide. 

Zakzaky and the IMN, which was founded as a student group in the 1970s, have been at loggerheads with the government for years because of his call for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution in Nigeria.

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Northern Nigeria is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

READ: Nigerian government bans Shi’ite group following deadly clashes with police

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