Police in Nigeria have tightened security ahead of a bail hearing for imprisoned Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, whose supporters are expected to stage protests for his release during the court hearing.
The Kaduna State High Court will on Monday decide whether to grant bail to the cleric, who is in dire need of medical treatment overseas.
The cleric, who has been in prison since December 2015, was reportedly poisoned in prison and requires urgent medical care abroad, according to members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
IMN members regularly take to the streets of the Nigerian capital to call for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015. Nigerian forces have used live ammunition against the protesters.
Just days ahead of the court hearing, a Federal High Court in the capital Abuja granted the government permission to label the Islamic movement a “terrorist” organization.
Police in Kaduna said in a statement on Sunday that they have deployed a security detail to the city in anticipation of protests as a result of the court hearing.
Security forces killed at least 20 members of the movement during protests on Friday, according to a spokesman for the IMN.
Protests have also been underway in recent weeks outside the Nigerian embassy in the British capital, London.
On Monday, Zakzaky’s supporters were staging protests outside the Nigerian embassy in London ahead of his appearance in court.
The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, (IHRC), have previously called on the Nigerian government to immediately release the cleric and send him abroad for urgent medical treatment.
The IHRC, which sent a medical team to Nigeria in April to examine the health and overall condition of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, has already said the specialist treatment they require can only be fully accessed outside the African country.
Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties, lost the ability to see using his left eye in a 2015 raid by security forces, which left more than 300 of his followers, and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious injuries.
The cleric was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all accusations brought up against him by the authorities.
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.