In a bizarre twist even by Nigerian military regime’s standards, four visitors of imprisoned Muslim leader, Mu’allim Ibrahim Zakzaky, were arrested and imprisoned after going on a routine visit to the alim and his three co-defendants known as the Zaria Four. Their arrest in Port Harcourt, River state, came days prior to the start of the trial on October 19 of the four defendants on ‘treason’ charges.
What was ‘treasonous’ about their activities? The group that Zakzaky heads published a pamphlet in which they had printed the statement by the young alim saying ‘All sovereignty belongs to Allah.’ The brutes in uniform consider this to be a challenge to their authority. General Sani Abacha, the Nigerian military strongman, considers himself the supreme master of his country where, presumably, he does not recognise even the Authority of Allah, astaghfirullah.
If convicted by a kangaroo military court - the military regime itself is under commonwealth suspension for refusing to accept the verdict of the presidential elections four years ago - the Zaria Four would face the death penalty. The four include, apart from Mu’allim Zakzaky, co-defendants Abubakr Abdullahi, Hamidu Ranlami and Muhammad Shittu. The four and hundreds of others were arrested in September 1996. More arrests followed taking the number of people incarcerated to above 1,000. However, as a result of a sustained campaign by Muslims worldwide, some 600 have since been released.
Those still in detention are from all over the country - Zaria, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Soba, Richifa, Batsari - clearly indicating the widespread support Mu’allim Zakzaky enjoys in Nigeria. The day after his arrest last year (September 12, 1996), more than 10,000 people held a protest rally in Zaria to demand his release.
That the rally was entirely peaceful was evident from the fact that mothers had come out with their children including infants. Yet the mobile police units opened fire without provocation, killing 40 civilians. Among the dead were a three-old boy, Abu Bakr; his four-month-old sister was hit in the arm by a police bullet.
The junta has not only resorted to indiscriminate killings but also the rape of sisters associated with the movement. This is a serious offence in Islamic law. Given the extreme sensitivity about the nature of such crimes, Muslims are extremely perturbed by the junta’s behaviour.
Not known for their adherence to the rule of law, the junta’s actions raise even more questions about their intentions with the commencement of the trial in a military court and the location of those incarcerated. Mu’allim Zakzaky and his fellow prisoners are from Zaria in the north while he is kept in Port Harcourt, the southern-most port city of Nigeria. This is designed to punish their family members who have to visit their loved ones.
Ironically, while much noise is made in the west about the annulled presidential elections, the incarceration of Moshood Abiola, a corrupt businessman who was front-runner in those elections, and the execution of Ken Siro-Wiwa, little has been heard about Zakzaky’s travails. Is it because he is a committed Muslim calling for the establishment of an Islamic State in the predominantly Muslim country?
Muslimedia: November 1-15, 1997