Police in Nigeria have used teargas to disperse peaceful protesters demanding the release of the country’s top Shia Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Africafrique reports.
Violence erupted on Wednesday as hundreds of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) were peacefully protesting in front of the National Assembly building in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Chanting slogans and holding banners that read, “Free Zakzaky,” the protesters demanded the release of their leader.
Police later moved in, firing tear gas canisters at the crowd.
Amnesty International recently called on the Nigerian government to abide by a court ruling that called for an end to the “unlawful” detention of the prominent Muslim clergy. The UK-based rights group said the government in Nigeria could extend Zakzaky’s detention on trumped-up charges in a bid to justify the crackdown on IMN members.
On December 12, 2015, Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria in the state of Kaduna, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. The Muslims categorically denied the charge.
The following day, Nigerian forces also raided Zakzaky’s home and arrested the clergyman and his wife after reportedly killing those attempting to protect them.
Nearly 350 members of the Shia movement were killed in the clashes. The sheikh was brutally injured and his house was reportedly destroyed by the army in the incident.
After detaining Zakzaky, the Nigerian government stepped up its crackdown on the IMN.
In November last year, nearly 100 IMN supporters were killed when Nigerian forces fired live rounds and teargas at mourners during a peaceful march ahead of the Arba’een mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him), the third Shia imam. Authorities also destroyed a number of buildings belonging to the IMN.
By Africafrique and Agencies