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Court orders unconditional release of detained Shiite leader, El-Zakzaky

 Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, ordered the unconditional release of detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise known as the Shiite sect, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Malami Zeenat, within 45 days. Justice Gabriel Kolawole made the order while delivering judgment on a fundamental right enforcement suit El-Zakzaky filed against the Federal Government. The court held that the continued detention of the applicant without trial amounted to a gross violation of his constitutionally guaranteed rights. It went ahead and awarded N50m damages against the Federal Government, even as it ordered the construction of a new accommodation for El-Zakzaky’s family in any part of Kaduna State or the Northern region. The court dismissed FG’s position that the applicant and his wife were under “protective custody”, saying such protection was “unknown to any law in Nigeria”. Justice Kolawole also noted that FG failed to by way of evidence, substantiate its claim that the defendant constituted a threat. Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose has hailed the Federal High Court, Abuja judgement describing the ruling APC, party as a law-breaker. Governor Fayose, who had earlier called for the release of El-Zakzaky, however said he won’t be surprised if the federal overnment does not obey the judgment, adding that; “The judgement will be for posterity even if in their usual style of impunity, those holding power in Abuja ignore the judgment.” He called on men of the judiciary to save democracy in Nigeria as well as Nigerians from tyranny by being courageous and firm even in the face of intimidation, harassment, blackmail and character assassination by those whose desire is to muscle opposition and turn Nigeria to as one party state. In a statement issued on Friday, by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose reiterated his earlier call on the International Criminal Court (ICC), Amnesty International and other world bodies to investigate extra judicial killings in the country in the last 15 months, especially the murder of over 300 Shi’ite Muslims in Zaria and killing of over 150 Biafra activists. The governor, who described the APC led federal government as law breaker, noted that “the kind of impunity against the law of Nigeria being witnessed now has never happened before. Even the military still obeyed court judgements but here we are with a democratically elected government that holds our constitution with contempt.” Justice Kolawole said: “I am unable to accept the view that the applicant was being detained with his consent”, the Judge held, adding that FG’s claim that it expended over N5million to treat the applicant did not in any way justify his continued detention without trial. He held that FG was only carrying out its constitutional obligation by providing medical assistance to the defendant considering the circumstance that led to his arrest and subsequent detention in custody of the Department of State Service, DSS. Justice Kolawole also decried the unwillingness of the government to explore an amicable settlement of the matter even after the court had provided it with an opportunity to do so. He said that the federal government was taking dangerous risk by keeping the defendant in custody. The Judge said the country would be exposed to a major crisis should El-Zakzaky die while in the supposed protective custody, saying it was under a similar circumstance that leader of the Boko Haram sect, Mohammed Yusuf died. He called for religious tolerance between members of the Sunni Muslim sect who are majority in the country and the Shiite sect, stressing that the Constitution accommodated all believe systems. The court said it was imperative that FG handled the situation cautiously in view of the global attention it was capable of generating. It ordered that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, should within 45 days, ensure the provision of a befitting accommodation for El-Zakzaky, whose house was demolished by Soldiers last year, in any part of his choice in Kaduna or the Northern region. The court, while directing the DSS to unconditionally release the defendant and his wife, ordered that the Inspector General of Police should convey them to their new home and provide them with protective security 24 hours and seven days of the week. It based the order on FG’s claim that the defendants were at risk, hence its decision to place them on protective custody. Specifically, the Shi’ite leader who has been in detention since December 14, 2015, applied for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.

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