The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has refuted claims by the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, that the Shi’ites leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was being tried for crimes and not for his religious beliefs.
The movement described its leader as a prisoner of faith, insisting that El-Zakzaky was being prosecuted for his religious beliefs.
The IMN said this in a statement on Monday, in response to the minister’s reaction to the addition of Nigeria, Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Sudan to the Special Watch List of countries that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.
United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, had announced in a statement in Washington on Friday, that Nigeria had been added to the SWL for engaging in religious persecution.
Pompeo’s announcement followed the release of the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom which recommended Nigeria’s designation as a country of particular concern.
The information minister had in his reaction on Sunday, contested the placement of Nigeria on the list, noting that El-Zakzaky was facing trial for crimes against the state.
But the Shi’ites spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, in a statement said officials of the Buhari regime deserved to be held for crimes for allegedly engaging in extra-judicial killings.
“If anyone deserves to be held and tried for crimes, it would be the top officials of the Buhari government who killed over a thousand unarmed citizens extrajudicially and buried them in mass graves, and have used all the might of governance to hide the truth and obstruct the course of justice,” he noted.
Musa said the persecution of IMN members by the current regime was known to the international community, adding that it was a subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
He stated, “Furthermore, many local and international human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Islamic Human Rights Commission have all investigated and documented the atrocities meted on members of the Islamic Movement and its leadership, purely based on their religious beliefs.
“That the ongoing persecution of the Islamic Movement has drawn the attention of the world, especially very lately, the United States government is a reality that no forms of lies by Mr Lai (Mohammed) can obliterate.”
The IMN said the world was not deceived by the false charges levied against the Sheikh, noting that about a hundred persons he was alleged to have aided and abetted had been discharged and acquitted by competent courts of law.
The statement read, “We, the members of the Islamic Movement and our leader, Sheikh Zakzaky are entitled to freedom of religion, association and expression like every Nigerian citizen, all of which the Buhari regime is denying us and perpetually persecuting us because of our faith and beliefs. Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is, undoubtedly, a prisoner of faith.”
The movement admonished the government to respect the rule of law and release El-Zakzaky while calling on the public “not to relent in their efforts at denouncing the tyrannical trends of the Buhari regime.”