Nigeria’s Shiite leader granted medical leave pending trial

Nigeria’s imprisoned Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been granted permission to travel to India for medical treatment, a spokesman confirmed to CNN on Monday.

Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) spokesman Abubakar Abdulrahman said Zakzaky’s health deteriorated after suffering a stroke last year. Zakzaky was arrested in 2015 following a crackdown by security forces and has been in detention since.

“He (Zakzaky) had a partial stroke last year while prison and his wife was supposed to undergo a knee cap replacement surgery before they were detained, that is why we have been protesting that they should let him seek treatment in India,” Abdulrahman told CNN.

Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, who has been in prison with him, will travel with a delegation abroad to ensure he returns for his trial in the Nigerian state of Kaduna, where he faces charges including culpable homicide and unlawful assembly, a Nigerian court said.

Shiite Muslims in Nigeria and Iran have been protesting against his continued detention nearly four years ago following a military crackdown on his followers. Nigeria accuses the group of attempting to murder a military chief in the city of Zaria in Kaduna, an allegation the sect has denied.

The group’s protests for his release in Nigeria often result in violence.

According to Amnesty International, 45 people died and 122 were injured in clashes between the Nigerian army and Shiite protesters in the capital of Abuja last year.

Last month, several people, including a policeman and a journalist, were killed in Abuja during clashes between IMN members and security forces.

The Nigerian government banned the Islamic group after the bloody clashes. There are an estimated 3 million Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, mostly residing in states in the north.