Nigerian authorities detain Shia group leader with ties to Iran

Members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria take part in a demonstration against the detention of their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky in Abuja on January 22, 2019. (AFP)

Nigerian authorities have arrested Nigerian Shia leader Ibrahim Zakzaky upon his return from India, where he was refused treatment because his sectarian ties to Iran do not abide by the country’s residency regulations.

The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Zakzaky and his wife are both being held in Nigeria’s Kaduna Prison, and Zakzaky’s trial has been postponed to February 2020, according to the Persian Al-Alam news channel website.

According to unnamed sources, India expelled the Shia leader out of fear that he would use his time in India to spread his sectarian views.

Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after the Nigerian government stormed the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), resulting in approximately 350 deaths. In early August, Zakzaky’s brother had accused Iran of converting Zakzaky and said the IMN should be proscribed for causing terror, according to an interview with Nigeria’s Punch Newspapers.

Zakzaky founded the IMN in the early 1980s after he visited post-revolution Iran. The group draws inspiration from Iran’s former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, with members having to pledge allegiance to Khomeini before pledging allegiance to Zakzaky.

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.

Iranian Press TV had reported in late August that the Shia leader left an Indian hospital without treatment and arrived back in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Semi-official Iranian news agency Fars had said in a report published in August that Indian authorities gave Zakzaky two hours to accept the treatment available, or else leave the country, citing the head of the pro-Iran Islamic Human Rights Commission.

In a video, Zakzaky accused the Nigerian authorities of providing India with false information about his illness and preventing him from receiving treatment.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:01 - GMT 07:01
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