Detained Shiite leader leaves Nigeria for medical treatment: Supporters, lawyer

Nigerian Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife flew out of the country to receive medical treatment in India. (File photo:

Nigerian Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife, detained by the authorities since 2015, flew out of the country to receive medical treatment in India on Monday, his supporters and lawyer said.

“The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife have at last just left Nigeria for India alongside some family members and security operatives,” his supporters said in a statement.

Zakzaky, a Shiite cleric, was arrested in December 2015 after the Nigerian government stormed the IMN’s offices, resulting in approximately 350 deaths. The IMN has since been campaigning for his release, with protests often turning violent.

Iran also campaigned for Zakzaky’s release and continues to provide financial and political support to the INM, 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.

On 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.

The IMN, which was founded by Zakzaky in the early 1980s after he visited post-revolution Iran, draws inspiration from Iran’s former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

The group has been banned and designated as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government, amid fears that its military-trained members may launch an insurgency against Sunni President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, whose authority it rejects.

- with AFP.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:00 - GMT 07:00