Nigeria’s Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky and his wife are in critical health condition, their lawyer has said after their trial was postponed due to their deteriorating health.
According to a report by the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, Femi Falana said on Thursday that his clients – jailed Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Mallimah Zinat – could not appear in the high court in Kaduna, the capital of an eponymous province in northwestern Nigeria, for trial due to their critical health conditions.
He added that prison officials also prevented any physician from out of the prison to see his clients, who are desperately in need of medical attention and care.
Falana, who is also a human rights activist, also noted that the court finally agreed to order the prison officials to allow the top cleric and his wife, who can barely walk with clutches, see a physician.
The lawyer added that his clients’ case was also adjourned to February 24 as their extremely poor health condition barred them from being present in the hearing session on Thursday.
Zakzaky, who is in his mid-60s, has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.
During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.
Last July, Sheikh Zakzaky’s son, Mohammad, said he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition after visiting him, stressing that he needed to be immediately hospitalized as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.”
A month later, the couple was transferred to India to receive medical care. However, they were forced to leave India after a few days in protest against the Nigerian government’s “obstruction” of his medical treatment and after they had “lost all faith” in the prospect of receiving proper treatment there.
Zakzaky, who is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, the disruption of public peace, and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all the accusations brought up against him.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
Protesters demand release of Zakzaky, wife
Separately on Thursday, Nigerian protesters once again took to the streets of the capital, demanding the immediate release of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife.
Followers of the IMN leader condemned the trial of the top Shia cleric and his wife in the Kaduna high court.
The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, a non-profit organization, for its part, denounced the trial as being politically motivated.
-Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky