Noah Ebije, Kaduna
There was jubilation yesterday by followers of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, as a court in Kaduna freed members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), who were detained since 2015 for alleged unlawful assembly.
The Shiite members who had, according to their spokesperson, Ibrahim Musa commenced a hunger strike yesterday, suspended the action to join family members and other sympathisers in celebrating their freedom.
Musa, in a statement said they had again, “secured a favourable judgement in the case brought before the Kaduna State High Court against the last batch of our members.”
The members were detained since December 2015 following a violent confrontation with the Nigerian Army in Zaria.
However, the Kaduna State Government said it will appeal the acquittal of the defendants in the State versus Mahdi Munkaila and 91 others, one of the cases arising from the Zaria clashes of December 2015.
A statement issued by the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Aisha Dikko lamented that ‘’after calling 36 witnesses and tendering 106 exhibits, the prosecution is surprised that the court concluded that a legally admissible case had not been made.’’
“The state is dissatisfied with the ruling of the court which is, in our view, erroneous in law, perverse and cannot be supported, having regards to the evidence led before the court by the prosecution.
“As such, the state will be lodging an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna, as soon as the full text of the ruling of the high court and other records are compiled,’’ the Attorney General promised.
The statement recalled that ‘’the case in Charge Number KDH/KAD/40C/2016 began as a fallout of the events that began in Zaria from 12thDecember 2015, when members of a now proscribed group attempted to prevent the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff from passing through a public highway.’’
‘’After the clashes, 90 of those arrested at the scene were handed over to the police. At the conclusion of investigations, a five count charge of Criminal Conspiracy, Culpable Homicide, Unlawful Assembly, Disturbance of Public Peace and Wrongful Restraint, under Sections 97, 221, 102, 106 and 256 of the Penal Code, was preferred against them. The matter was assigned to Hon. Justice H.T.D Gwadah of the Kaduna State High Court for trial,’’ she said.
According to the Commissioner of Justice, ‘’a total of 36 witnesses were called by the prosecuting counsel from the office of the Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice of Kaduna State. Witnesses included senior military officers who were with the Chief of Army Staff at the scene of the crime, Senior Police Officers, a Consultant Pathologist, Ballisticians and Victims of the crime.’’
“In the same vein, 106 exhibits were tendered by the prosecution during the trial. At the close of the prosecution case, the defence team made a no case submission, arguing that the prosecution had not made out a case to warrant the accused persons to defend themselves,’’ she recalled.
The Attorney General therefore said that ‘’it is a matter of utmost surprise that in its ruling today, 21st February 2020, the court held that the evidence the prosecution led is not legally admissible and discharged the defendants.
“This is notwithstanding the fact that Senior Military Officers and Senior Police Officers testified, and that exhibits were tendered and legally admitted by the court. Obeisance to the rule of law compels us to challenge this conclusion at the Court of Appeal,’’ she added.