The arraignment yesterday of Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife by the state High Court in Kaduna conforms to a pattern of government contempt for due process and law since they were detained in December 2015.
The pair were forcibly moved overnight from the capital Abuja by Nigeria’s secret services (DSS) to the High Court in Kaduna to hear the charges fabricated against them. The authorities allege that the sheikh and supporters of his group abetted the commission of culpable homicide when they blocked roads in the city of Zaria in December 2015.
Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky was shot along with his wife, Zeenah, and arrested during argy of violence unleashed over three days in December 2015 on supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in what was widely seen as a bid to curb the movement’s growing popularity.
At least 1000 civilians, mostly Islamic Movement supporters, were killed in the attacks and hundreds arrested in the attacks.
Three of Sheikh Zakzaky’s children were killed in front of him. As a result of the attack during which he was shot Sheikh Zakzaky lost the sight of one eye and the use of one arm. At the turn of the year in 2018 he suffered a stroke.
Apart from the fact that the couple have been illegally detained since the massacre despite a Federal Court order demanding their release, the Nigerian authorities have again acted unlawfully in dragging the pair to trial against their will.
No court has made an order for the Zakzakys to answer the charges. If they refuse to attend the hearing it is for the court to decide what happens next. There is no legal authority for the security services or anyone else to force them to attend.
To add insult to injury the sheikh and his wife have been dragged to a lower state court while they are subject to an order for release by a higher national court.
Kaduna state court has decided to readjourn the hearing until 21 June.
In the meantime it is believed that the couple will remain in the custody of the DSS. Their whereabouts are not known to anyone including family members.
Given the previous brutality exhibited towards Sheikh Zakzaky in particular by the security services there is genuine cause to fear for his health and wellbeing