Detained Nigerian Shiite cleric leaves Indian hospital

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Nigerian Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has left the Indian hospital where he arrived for treatment this week, the clinic said on Friday, while his office said he was heading home.

Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after the Nigerian government stormed the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), resulting in approximately 350 deaths. The IMN has since been campaigning for his release, with protests often turning violent.

On Monday the cleric departed Nigeria to receive medical treatment in India but an official from the Medanta hospital in Gurgaon outside New Delhi told AFP that he had left the clinic late Thursday.

A statement from his office on Twitter on Thursday said he was due to take off from the Indian capital at 10:00 pm (0430 GMT) bound for Nigeria but there was no immediate confirmation that he had left.

A court last week granted permission for Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat to receive medical care in India under Nigerian government supervision.

But the authorities insisted they must return to Nigeria to stand trial once their treatment is completed.

Iran also campaigned for Zakzaky’s release and continues to provide financial and political support to the IMN, which has been described as an Iranian proxy group.

In a letter to the Nigerian judicial authorities on July 20, 2019, Iran’s Attorney-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri criticized the Nigerian government for its treatment of Zakzaky and requested to have him transferred to Iran for treatment, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

A week later, Iran’s US-sanctioned Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “pursued Zakzaky’s situation diplomatically” during a trip to Senegal, according to Iran’s foreign spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

Last Saturday Zakzaky’s brother accused Iran of converting Zakzaky and said the IMN should be proscribed for causing terror, according to an interview with Nigeria’s Punch Newspapers.

-with AFP