AMNESTY International (AI) says Nigerian authorities have continually targeted Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) members also known as Shiites because they are a minority religious group.
The international human rights group was reacting to the recent release of 91 Shiite members, who were discharged and acquitted by a Federal High Court in Kaduna after being detained since December 2015 for allegedly killing a soldier.
In a tweet, AI stated that it welcomed the release of the IMN members.
It however, said that the inability of Nigerian authorities to prove charges laid against the members was evidence that they were targets because they are a minority religious group and not necessarily because they caused mayhem in the society.
Speaking with The ICIR, Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International reiteratedthat the Shiite members were being persecuted because of their religious affiliation and not necessarily because they caused mayhem in the society.
It would be recalled that about 200 Shiite members were arrested in December 2015 after the group had a clash with the Nigerian Army during a religious procession.
The clash which reportedly led to the death of about 350 Shiite members and a soldier was a result of the blockage of the PZ junction in Zaria, Kaduna by members of IMN who were said to be on their annual procession, thus preventing the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai and his convoy from passing.
The Commission of Inquiry set-up by the Kaduna State government to investigate the cause of the clash between members blamed the leader of the group, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky for all the transgressions of the Shiites.
A copy of the commission’s report made available to the New Telegraph said that El-Zakzaky had refused to order his followers to allow passage to the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai and his convoy, when members of the IMN blocked the road at the PZ junction in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The 295-page report, which has 15 chapters, quoted the Secretary to Kaduna State Government as saying that Governor Nasir El Rufai had personally called El-Zakzaky on phone “to persuade him to prevail on his members to remove the road blockade to no avail.”
Leader of the sect, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, his wife and many of his followers were arrested after the incident.
Zakzaky who will be marking his 67th birthday this year, has been charged with culpable homicide and other offences, all of which he denies.
The Nigerian government in 2019 declared the IMN group a terrorist group, proscribing their activities.