Court orders release of Shiite leader, El Zakzaky
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, ordered the unconditional release of detained Shiite’s Islamic leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenatudeen within 45 days.
Delivering the judgment, the Presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that the continued detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife by state instrumentality was an arbitrary act.
Kolawole said no extant law within the country’s statutory legal frameworks and external ones subscribed to by the state had allowed anybody to be held against his or her wishes.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that El-Zakzaky had filed a fundamental right enforcement suit against the Federal Government challenging both him and his spouse detention.
The court therefore, held that the continued detention of the applicant without trial amounted to a gross violation of the constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
“I have studied the addresses of Mr Femi Falana (SAN), counsel to the applicant and the counter-argument advanced by Mr Tijani Gazali counsel to the state.
“The issues raised in the application were to me fundamental rights issues.
“The fact, however, remains that the respondents have not denied they have not kept the applicant and wife in detention since Dec.15,’’ he said.
Kolawole further said that the defence of the respondents was not tenable in law, adding that the state had not justified why the applicant and his wife were held under protective custody.
According to him, neither the constitution nor the National Security Act allows a citizen to be in protective custody except on grounds of suspicious contagious disease.
“The respondents have not shown evidence to indicate that El-Zakzaky and his wife are plagued with such ailments that required them to be kept away from their community.
“It is also clear from the counter affidavit that no such evidence as to complaints of threat on the life of the applicant and his family to warrant their protection.
“The court has come to the conclusion that the applicant and his wife have been kept against their desires, thereby resulting in the breach of their rights to liberty.
“This court refuse to accept that the applicant and his wife were under protective custody,’’ the Judge held.
The court therefore, went ahead to award the sum of N50 million as general damages against the Federal government in favour of the applicant and his wife.
It also ordered the construction of a new accommodation for El-Zakzaky’s family in any part of Kaduna State or any town so approved by the applicant within the Northern region.
Kolawole further ordered the Inspector-General of Police to deploy policemen to protect the shiite’s leader in his new home pending the diffusion of the acclaimed threat on his life.
“I have ordered thE immediate release of the applicant and his wife because the family house in Zaria was destroyed between Dec.12 and Dec.14, 2015.
“I have given the 45 days as a reprieve for the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation in conjunction with the DSS to provide the new accommodation before their releases,’’ he said.
NAN recalls that Zakzaky’s detention followed a violent clash between his followers and the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai in Zaria on Dec. 14, 2015.
Speaking with newsmen after the proceedings, Mr Festus Okoye, counsel to the Shiite’s leader, described the outcome of the suit as a victory for civil rule.
He said the development would go a long way to douse the tension the detention of El-Zakzaky’s had generated in members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
“We are, however, waiting for the government to without delay carry out the orders of the court, that way peace and stability would return to our Federation,’’ Okoye said.
On his part, Gazali said the judgment would be tested in superior courts, adding that some of the issues raised were not distilled by the trial court.
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