Policeman feared killed in fracas
• IMN denies carrying arms
The Kaduna State government yesterday arraigned leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, for murder, amid clash between his followers and policemen.The pandemonium that ensued forced workers and traders to flee their work places and business premises for safety.Armed security operatives were deployed at strategic locations in the metropolis as commercial vehicles were diverted from major roads, including the Ahmadu Bello Way, in search of members of the IMN, also known as Shiites..
Sporadic shootings by the police rented the air to scare away the protesting Shiites who were heading toward the State High Court located at Ibrahim Taiwo Road where El-Zakzaky was arraigned. The Shiites were chanting Islamic songs, with slogans urging release of their leader.The protesters gathered at the Leventis Roundabout around 12noon, after the case involving their leader was adjourned, and were moving towards Katsina road roundabout, taking over the popular Ahmadu Bello Way.
Business owners on the road hurriedly shut their premises for fear of the unknown. While the protesters proceeded to Lagos Street roundabout to link up with Sardauna Crescent, the police team arrived at the roundabout and moved to disperse the Shiites who remained undeterred. They proceeded with their protest, chanting “Free Zakzaky,” “Free our Leader”, “Zakzaky is not a killer.”
Along Sardauna Crescent by Dan Musa road, sound of gunshots were heard, and the residents scampered for safety. The Shiites responded by throwing every available item they could lay their hands on back at the security agents. A police officer was sighted bleeding and being assisted by his colleagues back to their patrol van. The policeman was said to have died later. The confrontation also led to the destruction of a vehicle belonging to the police.
Some Shiites who sustained gunshot wounds were seen being helped into a vehicle and driven away to unknown destination.The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Aliyu Mukhtar, said the Shiites came fully armed and two police officers were injured in the fracas.But in a swift reaction, the leader of the IMN in Kaduna State, Sheikh Aliyu Tirmizi, said the Shiites came out for a peaceful protest and conducted themselves peacefully until the police attacked them and opened fire on them.
He denied the report that the Shiites came fully armed, saying it was not in their character to carry arms or any weapon.When El-Zakzaky was arraigned before the court yesterday, the registrar told the defence counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) that the case had been adjourned till July 11.
In an interview with journalists, Falana told them to insist on being part of the trial “because it is a public trial.” “It is your right to cover the proceedings,” he insisted.
Falana made the comment in reaction to the alleged barring of journalists from covering the trial.“What happened today is that the court did not sit. We were informed by the registrar that his lordship was indisposed, and in the circumstance, you have to take a date. The prosecution and defense counsel have agreed to come back on 11th July to have, possibly, the arraignment and file an application for bail for our client,” Falana said.
Members of the IMN also staged a peaceful protest to the National Human Right Commission yesterday in Abuja over the alleged murder of an Army officer.The leader of the protesters, Mohammed Musa, while submitting a letter of complaint to the Director General of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, said the Nigerian Army claimed that the unknown army officer was killed during the massacre in Zaria.
He pointed out that although the Federal Government assured that El-Zakzaky was being kept in protective custody, the government had filed murder charges against him, leading to the protests in Abuja and Kaduna.Ojukwu said every citizen had the right to carry out peaceful demonstration, promising that the commission would stand with the Shiites as long as they were peaceful demonstration.