(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed has claimed that incarcerated Shia Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is not in detention as has been widely reported.
Speaking on the Federal Government's anti-corruption war on Channels TV yesterday, June 15, 2017, the minister revealed that the outspoken cleric is actually living with his family in a house provided by the Federal Government for his own benefit.
"How many Nigerians know that El Zakzaky is actually not in prison custody nor police custody nor DSS custody? El-Zakzaky is in a house with his family, this is the honest truth."
Addressing the government's rejection of court orders to release the cleric, the minister said the government is merely keeping him in protective custody because "nobody wants to accept him as a neighbour".
The minster said, "The court ruled that he will be released after his house has been rebuilt. Nobody wants to accept El-Zakzaky as a neighbor. So we have been able to build a house, where do we release him to."
He also defended the government's action on defying the court order, saying, "If a judgment is given and that judgment is appealed, you cannot accuse the government of violating a court order if the appeal has not been decided."
The prominent cleric Ayatollah Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife were taken into custody on December 14, 2115, after deadly clashes between the supporters of the IMN movement and Nigerian troops.
Nearly 350 members of the Shia movement were killed in the clashes. The sheikh was brutally injured and his house was reportedly destroyed by the army in the incident.
The judge said he had given 45 days for authorities to provide new accommodation for the Zakzaky family. The accommodation is to be in the town of Zaria, Kaduna state, where the family were detained, or in other parts of the state or alternatively any other part of northern Nigeria.
Kolawole said the State Security Service would pay each of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife $78,984 in compensation for the violation of their rights by being held in unlawful custody for nearly a year.
Nearly 100 IMN supporters were killed when Nigerian forces fired live rounds and tear gas at mourners during a peaceful march ahead of the Arbaeen mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam. Authorities also destroyed a number of buildings belonging to the IMN.
The Nigerian government has stepped up its crackdown on the IMN since the December 2015 deadly incident.
Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) on Wednesday, April 26, occupied the streets of Abuja, Nigeria's capital city to mark the 500 days in detention of Sheikh Zakzaky.