Sheikh El-Zakzaky, wife depart Abuja for India medical trip


The leader of the banned Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, are set to depart the country for his medical treatment in India. The Shiites’ leader arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Monday morning and was bound to leave for New Delhi, India in a chartered flight.

El Zakzaky was granted permission to seek treatment at the Medina hospital in Indian Hospital by the Kaduna State High Court. His lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) had filed a suit seeking his client’s release from detention since 2015 to treat his dimming sight and deteriorating health.

The ruling by Justice Darius Khobo, however, was not without conditions attached. El-Zakzaky and Zeenat must not go to any other hospital other than the one they specifically requested. Also, the travel of the Shiites’ leader and his wife must be under the strict supervision of Kaduna state officials.

The ruling came after 186 doctors from Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari concerning Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s physical condition. The letter published on Monday by Fars News, an Iranian news agency quoted the doctors as asking the Nigerian government to transfer him to a well-equipped hospital as soon as possible.

It was however, not indicated whether the letter was written after a Kaduna High Court last week approved a leave for El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, to seek medical attention in India. El-Zakzaky and his wife were arrested after a 2015 clash in which the Nigerian troops killed about 350 of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground in Kaduna State and has remained in detention despite a court order in Dec. 2016 to release him.

His followers took to the streets to protest and demand the release of their leader. The protests turned violent with clashes between the police and the protesters leading to the death of over 20 Shiites, a policeman and a journalist.

The Nigerian government on July 26, 2019, obtained a court order to label the group as a “terrorist” organisation. Human rights activists kicked against the order but the Nigerian police later announced that it will henceforth treat the Shiites protests and all forms of procession as illegal. The group has sued the federal government over the proscription order, claiming it violated their constitutional rights to free assembly and religious worship.

El Zakzaky and his wife are to return to Nigeria to continue their trial once they are discharged.