By Daniel Tyokua
For a period spanning over four years since the
leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was arrested, a Kaduna High Court on Wednesday acquitted him of the charges filed against him by the Kaduna State government.
The Court has freed the embattled leader of the proscribed Islamic Movement and his wife of culpable homicide.
In a ruling that lasted over eight hours, the presiding judge, Justice Gideon Kurada upheld the no-case submission filed by Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife in an alleged culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace levelled against them by the Kaduna state government.
The judge in his ruling held that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
The duo has been standing trial for four years on an eight-count charge of alleged culpable homicide, disruption of public peace and unlawful Assembly among others levelled against them by the Kaduna State Government.
The defendants were brought to court on Wednesday morning by officials of the Nigerian Correctional service amidst tight security.
Their lead counsel and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, had on July 1, argued that all the 15 witnesses presented by the prosecution counsel were unable to establish any connection between the alleged crimes of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife.
Falana then prayed the court to rule in favour of his clients and dismiss the charges levelled against them as there was no criminal case that has been established against them so far by the Kaduna State Government.
Following El-Zakzaky’s arrest by the military on December 13, 2015, the IMN leader had experienced what may be described as a long contentious trial.
He marked his first appearance on May 15, 2018 where he was arraigned before a Kaduna High Court amidst tight security.
The Department of Security Services (DSS) had held the Shiite leader in detention despite a court order ordering his release.
However, the DSS complied with the court order and freed El-Zakzky who proceeded to India for medical treatment.
El-Zakzaky and his wife left Nigeria in August 2019 Monday for India following a ruling of the Kaduna State High Court which granted them permission to be treated in the country.
On their arrival at the hospital where treatment was expected to commence, the trip turned controversial.
Upon his return to Nigeria in August 2019, he alongside his wife were taken into custody, four days after they travelled to the Asian country.
The judicial battle has been on since then amidst continuous protest march by the members of the sect on the streets of Abuja and other parts of Nigeria.
It’s victory over Buhari, El-Rufai, IMN reacts
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, has said the court ruling granting its leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, freedom, was victory over persecution by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and that of the Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
A Kaduna High Court presided over by Justice Gideon Kurada had granted El-Zakzaky and his wife freedom on Wednesday.
Justice Kurada had ruled that the IMN leader and his wife have no case to answer.
However, IMN said the ruling has vindicated its leader and members of the group.
A statement by IMN’s President of Media Forum, Ibrahim Musa, reads: “This judgement has not only vindicated them and all members of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, but it is certainly a victory for perseverance in the face of extreme persecution by the Nigerian government. It is a victory for truth and justice against tyranny and impunity.
“We, therefore, give praises to the Almighty for yet another successful outing, which further proves to the world that the Islamic Movement and its leader, are only victims of impunity and mischievous plots by both the Buhari-led federal government and the El-Rufai-led Kaduna state government.
“Since both governments have again failed in court after a fair trial, we expect them to respect the judgement of this honourable court and the course of justice to release them with immediate effect.
“We wish to use this opportunity to also say a big thank you to all people of conscience, human rights activists and organizations, journalists and all those that joined in our dogged campaign for justice for the victims of Zaria genocide for the past five years. Thank you and God bless.”