THE Nigerian government will seek a fresh court order to re-arrest the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, Kaduna State Director of Public Prosecutions Dari Bayero told The ICIR on July 31.
The development follows fresh terrorism and treasonable felony charges filed against El-Zakzaky. The new charges are to be jointly prosecuted by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Justice, and the Kaduna State Government.
Bayero also informed The ICIR that the new charges were filed against the IMN leader on July 26, two days before he was acquitted and freed by a Kaduna State High Court.
Bayero also disclosed that attempts were made to serve the new charges on El-Zakzaky in prison, before he was acquitted and freed by a Kaduna State High Court on July 28.
The disclosure confirms The ICIR’s report that the Nigerian government made a last minute attempt to keep El-Zakzaky in detention by trying to serve the fresh charges on the IMN leader and his lawyers on July 27 ahead of the scheduled ruling on the no-case-submission on July 28.
But the government did not succeed in serving the charges on El-Zakzaky because the prison authorities refused to collect the charges and instead asked the prosecution to serve the court papers on El-Zakzaky’s lawyers.
El-Zakzaky’s lawyers also refused to be served with the fresh charges.
The Kaduna High Court presided by Justice Gideon Kurada eventually discharged and acquitted El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat in its ruling on the no-case submission application filed by the couple who had been in detention after they were arrested in December 2015 following clashes between IMN members and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The ICIR learnt that El-Zakzaky and his family members moved to Abuja after they were freed by the court.
However, the coast is not yet clear for the embattled Shiite leader following the fresh charges filed against him.
Having been acquitted and freed from the initial eight-count charge bordering on alleged culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among others offenses over which he was tried by the Kaduna State High Court, El-Zakzaky will now be prosecuted for alleged terrorism and treasonable felony before a Federal High Court.
In an interview with The ICIR on July 31, Bayero said the government will apply for an order to once again arrest El-Zakzaky when the new case commences after the ongoing court vacation.
“Yes we will get the necessary order from the court. The court will give us the order of arrest since we served him and he refused to accept service,” the prosecutor said when asked if the government would seek re-arrest El-Zakzaky.
Bayero added that the Kaduna State government and the Federal Government has already set up a joint legal team for the fresh prosecution of the IMN leader.
The involvement of the Federal Government in the new prosecution was informed by the terrorism aspect of the fresh charges, he said.
“That is why we are going to work with the Federal Ministry of Justice. We have already been given a team, they are going to work with us.”
The new trial will commence immediately after the court vacation.
“The courts are on vacation now, that is the only problem we have but as soon as a date is given immediately after the vacation we will commence the matter by getting the necessary order to bring him back from wherever he is,” Bayero further revealed.
“He is in the country,” the prosecutor observed in reaction to reports that El-Zakzaky had relocated from Kaduna.
* Nigerian government prepared for fresh protests by IMN members
Asked if the government was not concerned that the planned re-arrest and new prosecution would lead to further protests and possible breach of public peace by members of the IMN, Bayero said the government was prepared.
He said, “Certainly they (El-Zakzaky’s followers) will protest. But I am sure since the government has insisted on prosecuting it must have taken measures and is sure that it can handle the prosecution.”
The fresh terrorism and treasonable felony charges were filed under section 17 (A) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013, and are based on utterances allegedly made by El-Zakzaky.
El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat were accused of being responsible for the death of a soldier when troops of the Nigerian Army killed over 300 protesting Shiites in Kaduna in December 2015. The Shiites had clashed with soldiers in the entourage of immediate past Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai.
El-Zakzaky and his wife had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Some of El-Zakzaky’s sons, and several IMN members, lost their lives while protesting against injustice meted out to the group.