Supporters of prominent Nigerian cleric Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky have been holding a 24hr vigil at the Nigerian embassy in London for the past 23 days to demand his release from jail.
The protestors, who have numbered in their thousands over the course of the protest, are demanding that the Nigerian authorities immediately release Sheikh Zakzaky who they say needs to receive urgent life-saving treatment abroad.
Well known in Nigeria and across the Shia Muslim world, Sheikh Zakzaky is the founder of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria which has spearheaded a major protest movement condemning the Nigerian authorities over corruption.
Attempts to secure the release of the embattled leader suffered a fresh setback with the adjournment of a court hearing yesterday that was due to decide whether he should be freed to receive medical treatment.
The Kaduna State High Court adjourned proceedings for the second time in as many weeks in what supporters say is a deliberate ploy to drag out proceedings so that the ailing sheikh’s condition deteriorates to the point of no return.
Islamic Human Rights Commission chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “This adjourment for one more week has gone beyond ridiculous. The court knows that the sheikh’s health is critical. It has to do the right thing which is to serve justice and stop politicking for the benefit of those who want to see Sheikh Zakzaky dead.”
The IMN leader is suffering from extreme levels of lead poisoning sustained after receiving four gunshot injuries during the 2015 massacre of his movement’s members and supporters by the country’s armed forces. The toxicity is believed to be a direct result of the shrapnel from bullets left in his body.
The sheikh has also lost sight in one eye and the use of one arm and suffered a minor stroke earlier this month. Doctors say his health is deteriorating daily and that he is at risk of death if left untreated.
Nigerian authorities earlier this month promised to issue international passports to the sheikh and his wife so they could leave the country in order to receive medical attention. However, they have since backtracked on their assurances leading the pair’s lawyers to seek their release through the courts.
In recent weeks dozens of supporters in Nigeria have been killed or wounded as they intensified protests demanding the pair’s release. Demonstrations have erupted all around the world to seek to pressurise the Nigerian government to restore their freedom.
Sheilh Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah have been held illegally since being detained during the 2015 massacre. In late 2016 a federal court ruled the couples’ detention unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the government to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation.
That order was never implemented and the charges were brought against the couple in 2018. Critics say the charges are designed to deflect government responsibility for the 2015 attack by soldiers which is now the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Sheikh Zakzaky’s critics claim that he is trying to overthrow the Nigerian regime and spread Shia Islam throughout the country.