Hundreds of Nigerians have taken to the streets of the capital Abuja to demand the release of senior Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
More than 200 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and pro-democracy group Concerned Nigerians took part in the protest in Abuja on Wednesday amid police presence, holding placards and banners reading, “Free Zakzaky.”
Deji Adeyanju, with Concerned Nigerians, said, “What is happening to the Shia leader and the members of the Islamic Movement is completely injustice. A situation where they kill…. continuously kill their members you know… and continuously detain their leader is uncalled for. It is against the norm of justice and equity.”
“As sane Nigerians, as responsible Nigerians, we must as a matter of fact condemn it, which is exactly what we are doing. We are asking the government to do what is right,” Adeyanju said.
Concerned Nigerians said in a statement on Tuesday that the group would begin daily “sit-outs” on Wednesday to protest the killing of members of the IMN and call for the release of Zakzaky, the leader of the IMN.
Mohammed Ibrahim Gamawa, a member of the IMN, said during Wednesday’s protest that the country’s security forces repeatedly target their protests, but added that they “must come out and demonstrate if Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is not being released.”
“So we are under threat, definitely we are under threat,” he said.
Zakzaky has been imprisoned at an unknown location without charge since he was detained by security forces in 2015 after the Nigerian army carried out a raid on his residence in the northern town of Zaria during which he lost his left eyesight.
During the raid, Zakzaky’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed. Zakzaky’s wife and a large number of the cleric’s followers have also been in custody since then.
On Saturday, Sheikh Zakzaky made his first public appearance since his arrest in footage released by the Department of State Services. It was unclear under what circumstances the Shia cleric spoke in the footage, which was released after rumors of his death spread on the Nigerian social media.