A huge sense of relief swept through Kaduna State Monday morning as the state Highcourt granted the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem El Zakzaky permission to travel to India to seek medical attention.
El Zakzaky and his wife who were not in court have been in detention since 2015 following a bloody clash between members of IMN and the military that left scores of his members dead.
Protests organised by his members to pressure government to release him recently turned bloody with scores of his members as well as senior police office and a reporter with Channels Television killed.
Government obtained a court ruling which designated the IMN as a terrorist organisation and ban it's operations.
At the resumed hearing of the bail application filed by El Zakzaky's counsel, Femi Falana in Kaduna Monday the presiding judge, justice Dairus Khobo granted the defence counsel's request for the defendants to proceed to India to seek medical attention.
Like with all precious arraignments, a large swathe of the state capital,especially areas close to where the High court was situated was cordoned off and traffic diverted on some routes, with the police personnel and officers of the Civil defence corp strategically placed.
Only lawyers were allowed into the court premises.
Addressing journalists outside the court perimeter gate, the lead prosecution counsel, who is the state Director of Public Prosecution, Dari Bayero said the judge was satisfied with the medical certificate tendered by El Zakzaky and has granted him permission to travel to India to seek medical attention.
According to Bayero, "the court granted the defendant permission to seek medical attention under the strict supervision of the prosecution(state).
"The judge said from the medical reports filed by Mallam (El Zakzaky), he is indeed in dire need of medical attention.Its not necessarily bail but he has been granted leave to travel for medical attention.
The court said when he is discharged by the hospital, he will come back and continue his trial. So, as soon as he is discharged from the hospital , he comes back to the country and continue his trial.
The court heard the arguments of the counsels and has ruled. We are bound by the ruling of the court" he said.
Bayero added that by the ruling of the court, the defendant will go to the hospital in India where he specifically pleaded in his argument and no other country.
The Prosecution counsel said his team, will sit down and study the judgement before taking the next decision on whether to appeal the judgement.
Also speaking with journalists,counsel to El Zakzaky, Marshal Abubakar said what the court did was not to grant bail to the defendant but to rule that he should proceed to India to save his life.
"It was not a bail application. It was an application to save the life of the applicants, el-Zakzaky and his wife. the ruling came up today and the Judge, justice Darius graciously agreed with Mr Femi Falana SAN and the various medical reports that were attached to the applications. There were eight medical reports that clearly show the applicants were in dire need of medical treatment abroad.The court agreed that they should be allowed immediate treatment that they sought for with supervision" he said.
Meanwhile the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has said that the ruling by the Kaduna State High court granting it's leader permission to seek medical attention abroad was a "victory for truth and justice against tyranny and impunity.
In a statement signed by the Chairman, Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee, Abdurrahman Abubakar Yola. The group said the ruling by the court represents "victory for our dogged determination,patience, perseverance in the face of extreme persecution".
The statement reads" in part:
"It will be recalled that the applicants are known to be clearly very ill in detention, consequent on the brutal wounds unjustifiably inflicted on them by the state agents in the name of Nigerian army, the resultant prolonged dehumanizing detention in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) and the obvious poisoning of the Sheikh. As a result of all these physical and psychological stresses, the Sheikh suffered series of mild strokes and is at the risk of further recurrences.
"Meanwhile, he lost one eye following the military attack and is at a severe risk of losing sight completely in the other. He is now found to have more than twenty times the toxic levels of lead poison in his body! Similarly, the wife has been under excruciating pains with shrapnel deeply lodged in her body for all these years of inhuman conditions in detention. She now is able to ambulate only with the use of a wheelchair. Both were not even able to make it to the court in the last two sittings. They have been battling ailments that could not be treated in Nigeria, as posited by the foreign medical experts that earlier in the year assessed their health condition. Undoubtedly, both risk losing their lives had this favourable ruling been denied or further delayed.
"We are all aware of the blurred human rights records of the Nigerian government which hardly respects court orders in contravention of the constitutional provisions. Previously, Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife were still kept in detention incommunicado in spite of previous court judgement ordering their immediate release from detention, thereby further flaunting their fundamental rights and further jeopardizing their deteriorating health. With this recent ruling by the court today, we will finalize urgent plans to transfer them to a more appropriate foreign health facility for further expert management as we await the response of the Nigerian government. We expect them to act urgently to respect the Nigerian constitution and the ruling of this honourable court to grant the duo instant permit to travel for their treatment.
"As a peaceful Movement, we have kept to our clean tradition of keeping faith with due process in seeking redress through peaceful means without any resort to violence despite deliberate and persistent provocations by the government.
"We wish to use this opportunity to also say a big thank you to all people of conscience, particularly some very senior citizens, diplomats, human rights activists and organizations, journalists and the general public who doggedly stood by us in the campaign for justice for the victims of Zaria genocide"