40 arrested, several injured as protesters clash with police in Nigeria

Wednesday July 10 2019

Fire fighters extinguish a fire coming out from a vehicle following clashes between security operatives and supporters of imprisoned Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Fire fighters extinguish a fire coming out from a vehicle following clashes between security operatives and supporters of imprisoned Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky at the premises of the National Assembly building in Nigeria's capital Abuja, on July 9, 2019. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP 

MOHAMMED MOMOH
By MOHAMMED MOMOH
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ABUJA,

At least 40 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have been arrested following Tuesday's clashes with the police, police said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, members from the Shiite Muslim community clashed with police around the National Assembly building in Abuja, Nigeria, as they protested against the detention of Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

Both civilians and police officers were injured during the confrontation.

Two police officers were shot, police said on Tuesday. And according to AFP, police added that six other officers were hit by clubs and stones.

The incident occurred around 2pm and the National Assembly hurriedly suspended its plenary session due to the violence.

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Zakzaky has been in custody since 2015 when the Shiite community clashed with the army in Zaria, Kaduna State, in northern Nigeria. More than 320 people were killed in the clashes. Zakzaky’s supporters have been holding peaceful protests since.

PROTEST

According to witnesses, protesters began gathering at Parliament and the group overpowered security men at the first gate. They were met with resistance at the second gate, where they injured some policemen and some protesters were injured.

Protesters also damaged windows in the complex and some police vehicles.

A policeman looks at car vandalised by protesters around the National Assembly building in Nigeria's capital Abuja, on July 9, 2019. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP

A policeman looks at car vandalised by protesters around the National Assembly building in Nigeria's capital Abuja, on July 9, 2019. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP

According to AFP, IMN spokesman Abdullahi Musa Mohammed said security forces fired teargas before shooting at the protesters with live ammunition.

Police said 40 IMN members were arrested and that they had ordered "24-hour police surveillance" across the capital.

In October, the IMN and human rights groups said more than 40 people were killed when the security forces opened fire on crowds on the outskirts of the capital.

The army maintained six people died and that soldiers acted in self-defence.

Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria's secular authorities for years because of his call for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution.

TRIAL

Zakzaky is facing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of public peace.

The High Court in Kaduna State adjourned the trial of Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat. In November 7, 2018 he was denied bail by Justice Gideon Kurada.

On June 6, 2018 in a bail application, Zakzaky’s lawyer Maxwell Kyon told the court the cleric’s health had badly deteriorated as a result of injuries he sustained in 2015 and his long stay in custody. He said Zakzaky and his wife needed urgent medical attention.

Justice Kurada ruled that the lawyer failed to give sufficient medical evidence to back up the claims.

The couple were consequently remanded in the custody of the Department of State Security Services (DSS) throughout the period of their trial.

The case was then adjourned to January 22, 2019, for accelerated trial. When it came up for hearing, it was again adjourned to March 25, 2019 to enable Zakzaky and his wife get proper medical care.

-Additional reporting by AFP

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