Nigerian people have demanded the immediate release of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky during protest rallies in Abuja held on the fifth anniversary of the Zaria massacre.
Followers of Sheikh Zakzaky marked the anniversary with a huge protest from Wuse market to Berger Junc. in Abuja.
The protesters demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh and his wife Malama Zeenah, who are in unlawful detention.
A second “Free Zakzaky” protest was also staged at the Federal Secretariat in Three Arms Zone of FCT Abuja about an hour after the first protest.
Five years have passed since hundreds of Muslims were killed in a massacre in the Nigerian city of Zaria.
The incident took place when the Nigerian army stormed a religious ceremony, organized by Nigeria’s Islamic Movement, which represents the Shia Muslim minority in the country.
In the massacre, which took place in Kaduna State in 2015, at least 348 civilians were killed and 347 bodies were secretly buried, according to official tally. The real death toll is said to be much higher.
Not only has the Nigerian government refrained from paying compensation for the lives it took, it has also incarcerated followers of the movement and their leader Sheikh Zakzaky, whose health is deteriorating in prison.
On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the massacre, Iran’s holy city of Qom held a webinar attended by Muslim scholars to commemorate the victims of the tragedy.
Scholars in Qom described the Nigerian government as the puppet of Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel.
They say the Nigerian forces have continued the brutal assault against Sheikh Zakzaky’s supporters ever since they publicly condemned Israel for its atrocities against the Palestinian people.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
Zakzaky was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other accusations. He has vehemently rejected all these accusations.
Sheikh Zakzaky was due to appear in court in September this year to face judgement on an application asking for the dismissal of the case against him, but the trial was adjourned to next January, something that observers say could put Sheikh’s life at risk amid calls for his immediate release because of his deteriorating health in jail.