A court in Nigeria’s central state of Kaduna has acquitted Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, and his wife of all the charges levelled against the duo.
The trial at the Kaduna State High Court started on May 15, 2018 and dragged on for over three years. The high court issued its final verdict on Wednesday, Ishaq Adam Ishaq, their lawyer, said in a statement.
They were released from detention following the ruling, he added.
“At last, we defeated them. we won,” hailed the legal representative, adding, “They have gained their freedom. They are now freed and with us.”
Zakzaky and his wife, Mallimah Zeenat, were standing trial in the court 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.
In December 2015, Nigeria’s military launched a crackdown as part of a deadly state-ordered escalation targeting the movement that Abuja has branded as illegal.
The campaign saw the troops’ attacking Zakzaky’s residence in the town of Zaria in Kaduna, afflicting him and his wife with serious injuries that reportedly caused the cleric to lose his left eye.
During the crackdown, the military also attacked the movement’s members as they were holding religious processions, with the government alleging that the Muslims had blocked a convoy of the country’s defense minister.
The movement has categorically rejected the allegation, and said the convoy had intentionally crossed paths with the IMN’s members to whip up an excuse to attack them.
The violence led to the death of three of Zakzaky’s sons and more than 300 of his followers.
Amid the long-drawn-out jail term, the couple were allowed to leave for India for medical purposes. Their stay was, however, reportedly plagued by the state’s interference aimed at preventing them from receiving proper medical treatment.
The couple’s freedom came following tireless activism on the part of Nigeria’s Shia faithful and repeated damning reports about their situation by international human rights bodies.