Nigeria: Shiites Dismiss El-Zakzaky's Media Interview, Insist On Release of Cleric

Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky
14 January 2018

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) said on Sunday that it was not blown away by the Saturday afternoon media interview which the State Security Service arranged for its detained leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

The members said only an unconditional release of their leader as ordered by federal courts would be acceptable.

Mr. El-Zakzaky was publicly seen Saturday for the first time since he was taken into custody after the Nigerian Army raided his compound and killed many of his followers in December 2015.

Mr. El-Zakzaky was himself seriously brutalised during the incident when the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, was delayed from passing through Zaria by IMN members, who were on a procession.

At least 347 people were killed in the ensuing military assault on a neighbourhood occupied predominantly by IMN members in the university town.

All the members were subsequently buried in mass graves supervised by the Kaduna State Government.

The incident was condemned by rights organisations across the world, including by Amnesty International which called for a thorough investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Mr. El-Zakzaky had received court rulings for the SSS to set him free without preconditions, but the state police rebuffed the court orders and said it was keeping the religious leaders in "protective custody" for his own good.

A judicial panel of enquiry set up by the state government also found the Nigerian Army culpable in the massacre, recommending Adeniyi Oyebade, then Grand Officer Commanding of Nigerian Army 2 Division, and his subordinates to stand trial for murder.

The Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is currently proceeding with its preliminary investigations into the massacre.

Until yesterday, neither Mr. El-Zakzaky nor his wife, who was also detained with him, had been seen in public.

But the wife was not seen in the media interview, which the SSS arranged with a select number of reporters to dispel rumours of Mr. Zakzaky's death.

The rumours capped a week of extensive protests that sparked clashes between IMN members and the police.

The followers were demanding Mr. Zakzaky's release from custody.

Mr. El-Zakzaky said in the short video that he was recovering well in SSS custody and thanked the agency for finally allowing his personal doctors access to him.

PREMIUM TIMES was not invited to the "media briefing", and could, therefore, not independently confirm Mr. El-Zakzaky's appearance or condition.

In a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday afternoon, Ibrahim Musa, the IMN said the purported media interview arranged by the SSS failed to answer most of the critical questions bordering on Mr. El-Zakzaky's ordeal.

"Credible and dependable sources have it that the arranged interview by the security men was made to appear as impromptu, but our Leader, Sheikh Zakzaky granted a much longer interview and addressed far more issues than was released.

"What did he say about his continuing detention? What did he say about his similarly incarcerated wife and her own ill health?

"What did he say about the legal tussle or even how the whole saga began in the first place? What did he say about the destruction of his properties, the desecration of his mother's and children's graves?

"What did he have to say about the killing of his elder sister, a nephew, three sons and over a thousand of his disciples? What was his reaction to the mass grave at Mando, which the security did their utmost best to conceal?

"Why did he opt to challenge his supposed "protective custody" in court when the authorities are telling the world that it was of his own volition? Why did he reject going to Kaduna state constituted Judicial Commission of Inquiry but submitted a memo to Osinbajo Panel of Investigation, only to refuse giving testimony in secret?

"The questions are nearly endless. We challenge the security forces to either release to the public the full unedited interview, or allow an open live free interview with no restriction," the IMN queried.

The SSS could not be reached for comments because the agency has not appointed a spokesperson since September 2015.

Read the full statement of IMN below:

Sheikh El-Zakzaky was allowed to speak to a select section of the Press on Saturday 13th January, 2018 for the first time since his illegal detention.

That followed recent wave of incessant but peaceful street actions calling for his immediate and unconditional release all over the country as well as globally following reports of his deteriorating health condition in detention.

This limited view and voice of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, speaking live in the short video clip in the over two years of his illegal detention may seem very pleasant but falls very short of expectations of his total and unconditional freedom as ordered by the Federal High Court Abuja.

We are not unmindful of the fact that Sheikh Zakzaky has not committed any crime, and his detention under whatever guise and pretence has been ruled by a competent court in our land as unconstitutional and a breach of his fundamental rights.

There is therefore no justification whatsoever to be satisfied by a few seconds of video clip of an illegally incarcerated Sheikh.

It is absolutely a matter of complete freedom that he deserves or nothing at all for the Sheikh in our view. Only a truly free Zakzaky will suffice as ordered by the Federal High Court.

It is only a free Zakzaky that can determine, without waiting for permission from anyone or security agents, where and when to seek medical attention and from whom.

Similarly, were the Sheikh truly free, he wouldn't have to be denied access to his personal doctors or have to need special permission to be granted by security agents to see his personal physicians.

A truly free Zakzaky will not have to be "granted permission" by anyone to give a press interview, let alone limit it to a select section of the press. A truly free Zakzaky would not be limited in what questions to address too.

Credible and dependable sources have it that the arranged interview by the security men was made to appear as impromptu, but our Leader, Sheikh Zakzaky granted a much longer interview and addressed far more issues than was released.

What did he say about his continuing detention? What did he say about his similarly incarcerated wife and her own ill health?

What did he say about the legal tussle or even how the whole saga began in the first place? What did he say about the destruction of his properties, the desecration of his mother's and children's graves?

What did he have to say about the killing of his elder sister, a nephew, three sons and over a thousand of his disciples?

What was his reaction to the mass grave at Mando, which the security did their utmost best to conceal?Why did he opt to challenge his supposed "protective custody" in court when the authorities are telling the world that it was of his own volition?

Why did he reject going to Kaduna state constituted Judicial Commission of Inquiry but submitted a memo to Osinbajo Panel of Investigation, only to refuse giving testimony in secret? The questions are nearly endless.

We challenge the security forces to either release to the public the full unedited interview, or allow an open live free interview with no restrictions.

Undoubtedly, the Islamic Movement is not impressed with this, and certainly is not fooled by the antics of the Buhari security agencies.

We are not placated by Sheikh Zakzaky's short and edited video clip. The local and global Free Zakzaky campaigns will most certainly continue.

Our goal is not to see Sheikh Zakzaky in a controlled press clip but our goal is the unconditional freedom of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife as ordered by a competent Nigerian Court. Nothing short of that will suffice.

SIGNED BY

IBRAHIM MUSA

PRESIDENT MEDIA FORUM OF ISLAMIC MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA

14/01/17

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