Protesters demand release of detained Nigerian Shiite leader

AP News
Posted: Apr 01, 2016 4:04 PM
Protesters demand release of detained Nigerian Shiite leader

CIKATSERE, Nigeria (AP) — Dozens of protesters waving banners demanding "Free Zakzaky!" marched down a northern highway on Friday to support the Nigerian Shiite leader who has been detained without charge for more than three months.

The protest comes the week that Ibraheem Zakzaky's Islamic Movement in Nigeria denied claims that its members kidnapped and killed an army colonel last week. The movement's spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said the claims were based on military intelligence leaks alleging the Shiites were plotting to kidnap army officers and offer them in exchange for Zakzaky.

The development raises fears of more violence.

Zakzaky was detained Dec. 14 along with scores of followers after three days of military raids on Shiites in the northern city of Zaria killed hundreds including two of Zakzaky's sons, according to human rights groups. He has not been brought to court, which the law says must be within 48 hours of arrest.

Nigeria's military accused the Shiites of trying to assassinate defense chief Gen. Tukur Buratai — a charge the Shiites deny. In punishment, soldiers bulldozed three Shiite centers including mosques and schools in Zaria.

On Friday, protesters chanting "free Zakzaky!" marched along the highway near Zaria — one of many such protests recently.

The Shiites, a minority in a country where most Muslims are Sunni, are boycotting a commission of inquiry into the killings because Zakzaky has not been allowed to see their lawyers.

Zakzaky, who started the movement after returning from Iran 37 years ago and attracting millions of followers, suffered four bullet wounds before he was captured, the family doctor said. Musa has charged that some wounded and detained Shiites have died for lack of medical care.

Last week, the Shiites petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate the alleged military killings of nearly 1,000 Shiites, calling them crimes against humanity.