Five years after: Court ends El-Zakzaky, wife, Zeenat’s trial

About five years after their trial commenced, a Kaduna state High Court Wednesday discharged and acquitted leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shi’ites, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat; over a case of homicide.

The duo were charged to court over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, among other criminal charges since December 2018, following a clash between his followers and the convoy of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai in Zaria  December 2015.

At the end of the court proceedings  during which the prosecution and defendants’ counsel  addressed the court on the no-case submission prayer filed El-Zakzaky and wife  at the last sitting, Justice Gideon Kurada  fixed Wednesday July 28 for ruling. 

Delivering ruling on the secret trial, Justice Kurada, was said to have upheld the no-case submission of the defendant.

The court found that the charges filed in the year 2018 pursuant to a Penal law enacted by the Kaduna state government in 2017 over offenses allegedly committed in 2015 were ab-initio. 

According to the counsel to Zakzaky, Marshal Abubakar, the court upheld their no-case submission and agreed that the case lacked merit. “The trial of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenat Ibraheem has come to an end today. The court has upheld our no-case submission. 

“The court found that the charges that were filed in the year 2018 pursuant to a Penal law enacted by the Kaduna state government in 2017 over offenses allegedly committed in 2015 is ab-initio. The court ruled that the charge ought not to be in the first place because you cannot arraign a man for an offence that was already committed as at the time the said crime was not an offence. And the court was very emphatic on that. 

“The Kaduna State government has powers to enact laws, but they cannot enact law to prosecute an offence retrospectively. That is the first ground on which the court held that that charge was incompetent.

“On the no-case submission we filed in court, the court agreed with us that the trial lacked merits. That the prosecution only came to court to tell stories that are at cross variance with the offences that were alleged in the charges. 

“The court agreed with us that, El-Zakzaky and his wife have committed no offence. The Court however discharged and acquitted El-Zakzaky and his wife. It said there should not have been any charge against El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat in the first place,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) further quoted Abubakar as saying “the court, thereby, discharges and acquits the defendants, as there should have been no charge in the first place. No party asked for cost of fine.”

However, NAN reports that the lead counsel of the prosecution team, Mr. Dari Bayero, declined comment as he stepped into his car and drove off.

The IMN leader and his wife could not be accessed by journalists as they  were whisked out of the court in company of  their lead counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), after the judgement that lasted close to eight hours.

We‘re vindicated – IMN

But in a reaction to the judgement, the IMN said the ruling vindicated the Shi’ites and had proven that both the movement and its leader were only victims of ‘impunity and mischievous plots’ by both federal and Kaduna state governments.

The group said this in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Blueprint in Abuja.  

The statement was signed by IMN Media Forum President Ibrahim Musa.

It reads: “Today, Wednesday, 28/07/2021 the Kaduna State High Court presided by Justice Gideon Kurada delivered a favourable judgement in the “no case submission defence led by the defense lawyers on the case brought against the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenah Hashim.

“The duo have been on standing trumped-up sundry trumped up charges, including that of aiding and abetting culpable homicide punishable by death.With this victory in court today, the false charges filed against them has finally been punctured for good after almost five years of excruciating illegal detention.

“This judgement has not only vindicated them and all members of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, but it is certainly a victory for perseverance in the face of extreme persecution by the Nigerian government. It is a victory for truth and justice against tyranny and impunity.

“It will be recalled that the Kaduna state government filed charges against Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife as an afterthought a year and a half after a federal high court in Abuja had ruled that their continued detention was unconstitutional, illegal and a severe breach of their fundamental rights and thereby must be set free and compensated.

“The government however remained in contempt until they decided to frame these spurious false charges in an attempt to perpetually keep them in their illegal custody.

 “We, therefore, give praises to the Almighty for yet another successful outing, which further proves to the world that the Islamic Movement and its leader, are only victims of impunity and mischievous plots by both the Buhari-led federal government and the El-Rufai-led Kaduna state government.

“Since both governments have again failed in court after a fair trial, we expect them to respect the judgement of this honourable court and the course of justice to release them with immediate effect.

“We wish to use this opportunity to also say a big thank you to all people of conscience, human rights activists and organizations, journalists and all those that joined in our dogged campaign for justice for the victims of Zaria genocide for the past five years. Thank you and God bless.”

The trial

NAN recalls that the Kaduna State Government had charged El-Zakzaky and Zeenat with an eight-count charge bordering on alleged culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other charges.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charge

NAN reports that on September 29, 2021, the court dismissed a no-case submission filed by El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat.

In the motion, El-Zakzaky asked the court to dismiss the allegations against him and his wife for lack of evidence.

But in his ruling, Justice Kurada dismissed the no-case submission, saying  it was premature to rule on the application to quash the charges against the defendants in view of the clear provisions of the Kaduna State Administration of Criminal Justice.