BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Human rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) yesterday called on the federal government to immediately release from custody Shiite leader, Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife instead of subjecting them to illegal media parade.
Falana, who is the lawyer to the couple, insisted that, “having paraded the couple before the media, albeit illegally, the federal government should immediately proceed to purge itself of the aggravated contempt of the Federal High Court by complying with the order for their release from the illegal custody of the State Security Service”.
The lawyer, who made the demand in a press statement, he issued in Lagos on Sunday, stated that the order which was made on December 2, 2016 has not been set aside by any higher court.
He said, “Last week, it was widely rumoured in the social media that Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky had died in the illegal custody of the State Security Service. Although I was compelled to dismiss the dangerous rumour via a public statement I requested the federal government to release the Shiite leader and his wife for urgent medical attention.
“Instead of acceding to my request the State Security Service misinformed Sheik Elkakzaky and his wife of the readiness of the federal government to release them after a media parade to assure the Shia community that the Sheik is alive and well.
“Hence, they agreed to the media parade which lasted for one minute and 20 seconds (yesterday) in an undisclosed detention custody at Abuja.
“But contrary to the official claim that the Shiite leader is hale and hearty he is currently wearing a neck collar support which was procured for him when he fell sometime last December.
“That was when his personal doctor was allowed to examine him for the first time in his over two-year detention period. Before the neck injury he had lost his left eye while the recommendation of eye specialists that he be flown abroad to save the right eye and prevent him from going totally blind has been ignored by the federal government.
“In fact, the medical state of his wife is by far worse than his. She has been subjected to excruciating pain as some of the bullets deposited in her body on December 14, 2015 during the military invasion of their home in Zaria have not been removed.
“Hence, the organisers of the media parade deliberately prevented her from addressing the media representatives even though she was present at the so-called press conference!
“However, if the federal government does not want to end the official impunity of treating a valid and subsisting court order with disdain it should release the Elzakzakys to their children who have applied to take them abroad for urgent medical treatment.
“This request is in line with Nigerian Prison Regulation 12 which stipulates that even convicts shall be released to their relatives or friends if the prison has no facilities for treating them. In Fawehinmi v The State (1990) 1 NWLR (pt 127) 486 the appellant was granted bail and released on bail pending trial by a military junta.
“The situation should not be worse under a democratic dispensation. In the instant case, the Elzakzakys have not been charged with any criminal offence whatsoever.
“The spurious claim of the federal government that the detainees are held “in protective custody” was poohpoohed and dismissed by the Federal High Court (per G. O. Kolawole J.).
“Instead of chasing the shadow by subjecting the couple to illegal media parade the federal government should direct the State Security Service to release them from illegal incarceration without any further delay,” Falana maintained.
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