WASHINGTON – Controversial cleric Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky returned home to Nigeria after a brief trip to India, where he had sought medical treatment after four years in detention.
The news came as a surprise to supporters who had celebrated his departure earlier in the week. Nigerian authorities had granted Zakzaky medical leave while he awaits trial. He was charged with inciting violence and other offenses but denies guilt. While in detention, he has had two strokes and is losing his sight, the
The group had been holding daily protests in the streets of Abuja, but in an interview with VOA’s Daybreak Africa on Monday, Ibrahim Gamawa, a spokesperson for the IMN, said those protests would stop while Zakzaky receives treatment.
He said the group is happy, but added that the medical leave should have been granted long ago.
“We will disappear from the streets of Abuja for the time being. We pray that our sheikh will come back healthier than when he left the country,” Gamawa said.
Gamawa denied that the group has ever used violence, saying they are victims of violence by Nigerian authorities. “We want to unite Nigerians. We want Nigerians to understand each other. We want Nigerians to tolerate each other. We want Nigerians to be each other’s people. So, extremism is for the extremists,” he told VOA.
“There is no civil court that convicted any of our members of killing any other person,” Gamawa added. “We are victims of all these things that come from disgruntled people, so we are victims of extremism. We are victims of political struggle. We are an endangered species in Nigeria.”