Foreign medical aid approved for detained Shi’ite leader

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A Nigerian judge ruled the detained leader of a banned Nigerian Shi’ite Muslim group could seek medical treatment abroad, after protests calling for his release turned violent.

Nigeria banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in July after a week of protests in which the group said at least 20 members were killed in police crackdowns. Police gave no death toll.

The group’s leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people storming its compound and a nearby mosque. He has not been released despite a court orde and the IMN said his detention is illegal.

The judge in a court in Kaduna granted Zakzaky and his wife leave to seek medical treatment in India under supervision of state officials.

Zakzaky’s lawyers said while in detention, Zakzaky lost an eye to advanced glaucoma and risks losing the other while shrapnel lodged in his body was causing lead poisoning.

Government says IMN incites violence and a court gave authorities permission to label it a terrorist organisation. IMN denies it is violent and says Zakzaky should be released in line with a December 2016 court order.

Nigeria considers some Islamist movements to be a security threat after a decade combating the insurgency by Sunni Muslim militant group Boko Haram in which 30,000 people died. The death of Boko Haram’s leader in custody was one event that set the group on a violent path.