A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, has called for the release of the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, saying the Shi’ite leader was “not well” despite a recent public appearance.

Mr. Ogunye said the detained Shi’ite leader could not be “well” having been thrown into detention since 2015 despite suffering life-threatening injuries.

“You can’t be well,” Mr. Ogunye said.

“Not with the killing of your children, the massacre of your sect members and the demolition of your dwellings and those of your sect members, the destruction of your worship centres, and your prolonged unlawful detention, in spite of orders of court for your release, orders which are being flouted by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, have been in detention since a violent confrontation between his IMN group and the Nigerian army in Kaduna.

On December 12, 2015, armed soldiers clashed with the members of the Shi’ite sect after the latter allegedly blocked the passage of the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.

The next day, the soldiers returned to unleash more violence on the sect members with more than 300 followers of Mr. El-Zakzaky killed by the army.

In 2016, Mr. El-Zakzaky’s lawyer, Femi Falana, said his client had gone half-blind after the Nigerian government held him incommunicado for months.

Despite court rulings granting him bail as well as demands for his freedom by human rights groups, the government continued to hold the Shi’ite leader.

Last week, rumours of Mr. El-Zakzaky’s death spread on social media forcing his lawyer to issue a statement debunking the claims.

Furthermore, the Nigerian government hastily arranged a media appearance for Mr. El-Zakzaky where he said the government had finally allowed his doctors to examine him “for the first time.” He said he was getting better and thanked Nigerians for their prayers.

But Mr. Ogunye said the brief television appearance was merely a ‘proof of life’ and did not denote that all was well.

“You can’t be well in an unlawful detention where your right to liberty and right to freedom of association are being breached,” Mr. Ogunye said in his statement in which he was addressing the Shi’ite leader.

“That you are forced in the circumstances to appreciate the ‘kind gestures’ of your traducers who are denying you your liberty, for allowing your personal doctors to attend to you, a remark that smacks of the possibility of your suffering from a Stockholm Disease Disorder (SDD) or affliction, and a statement which is now being celebrated out of context to demonstrate that you are well treated in captivity, and that you are not dead, as recently rumoured, is our own proof that you are not well.

“This should also be the proof of your unwellness for any rational and objective observer.”

Mr. Ogunye said the detained Shi’ite leader may be alive but “not well.”

“You will only be ‘well’ upon being released from custody, with your wife. And that is assuming you can ever be well again. Not only because of the personal injuries you sustained and the disability you now have, as a result of the military attack of 2015, but also because the killings of your sect members, including your children, and the brutality that has been meted on you, have made an indelible dent on the possibility of the restoration of your psychological and emotional health, and your wellness in general.

“After release from physical custody, you may not be released from mental torture, emotional distress, and severe trauma.”

Read Mr. Ogunye’s full statement below:

YOU ARE DOUBTLESSLY ALIVE BUT YOU ARE NOT WELL.

Our attention is drawn to the recent media reports quoting Sheikh El Zakizaky as saying that ” he was alive and well ” . Following a persvasive misleading rumour of his death in custody , the Federal Government and its security agencies organized a short television interview for Sheikh El Zakzaky apparently to prove that he is alive and not dead. It was during that interview that he reportedly stated that he is alive and well.

Sheikh El Zakzaky, Sir, you are alive, but you are not well. You can’t be well when you are thrown into detention following the life threatening injury you suffered in that clampdown in 2015. You cant be well. Not with the killing of your children, the massacre of your sect members and the demolition of your dwellings and those of your sect members, the destruction of your worship centres, and your prolonged unlawful detention, in spite of orders of court for your release, orders which are being flouted by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Yes, Sheikh, your television appearance and short speech of gratitude to people of goodwill for their prayers , and to the security agencies and government for allowing you be attended to by your personal physicians, might have given a ” proof of life”. But it also shows you are not well.

You can’t be well in an unlawful detention where your right to liberty and right to freedom of association are being breached. That you are forced in the circumstances to appreciate the ” kind gestures ” of your traducers who are denying you your liberty, for allowing your personal doctors to attend to you, a remark that smacks of the possibility of your suffering from a Stockholm Disease Disorder (SDD) or affliction, and a statement which is now being celebrated out of context to demonstrate that you are well treated in captivity, and that you are not dead, as recently rumoured, is our own proof that you are not well. This should also be the proof of your unwellness for any rational and objective observer.

You will only be ” well” upon being released from custody, with your wife. And that is assuming you can ever be well again. Not only because of the personal injuries you sustained and the disability you now have , as a result of the military attack of 2015, but also because the killings of your sect members, including your children, and the brutality that has been meted on you, have made an indelible dent on the possibility of the restoration of your psychological and emotional health, and your wellness in general. After release from physical custody , you may not be released from mental torture , emotional distress and severe trauma.

Sheikh, our objective assessment is that you are alive, BUT YOU ARE NOT WELL.

We, again, call for the release of Sheikh El Zakzaky from custody in compliance with the orders of the courts.

This piece first appeared in the Premium Times of Monday, 15th January, 2018