Leader of Nigeria’s Shi’ite sect Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Zeena will fly out of Nigeria to India today to seek medical treatment, local media outlets have reported citing his lawyer Femi Falana.
Government banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in July after a week of protests in which the group said at least 20 of its members were killed in police crackdowns. Police also recorded a casualty.
But a week later, a court in the northern Kaduna state granted the couple leave to seek medical treatment in India under strict supervision of state officials.
They were flown to the capital Abuja from Kaduna earlier today and are due to make the journey out.
Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai after the court decision issued six guidelines against which the court order had to be executed.
Zakzaky, has been held since 2015 when government forces killed around 350 people in a storming of its compound and a nearby mosque. He has not been released despite a court order to that effect, and the IMN said his detention is illegal.
His lawyers have said that while in detention, Zakzaky lost an eye to advanced glaucoma and risks losing the other, while shrapnel lodged in his body since the 2015 storming of the IMN compound was causing lead poisoning.
The government says IMN incites violence, and a court gave the 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.
IMN is the largest Shi’ite organisation in a country where around half of the population is Muslim, overwhelmingly Sunni.
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 have been killed.
The death of Boko Haram’s leader in custody was one of the events that set that group on a violent path.