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 belief.
The movement described its leader as a prisoner of faith, insisting that El-Zakzaky was being prosecuted for his religious belief.
The IMN said this in a statement on Monday in response to the minister’s reaction to the inclusion of Nigeria, Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Sudan in 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 Muhammadu Buhari regime deserved to be held 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 the 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 said, “Furthermore, many local and international human rights organisations 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 movement asked the government to respect the rule of law and release El-Zakzaky.