A top Nigerian court has cleared dozens of the followers of prominent Shia cleric Ibrahim al-Zakzaky of criminal charges, raising hopes for the release of the cleric himself, who has been held captive for almost three years by the Abuja government.
Justice David Shiri Wyom of the Kaduna State High Court cleared 80 detainees of the charges on Tuesday. They had been arrested during a government raid on the headquarters of Shia community in Nigeria on December 2015.
During that raid, security forces killed some 300 Zakzaky supporters, including three sons of the cleric, and later buried them in mass graves.
Zakzaky is also “standing trial for having abetted the commission of the offenses,” said the lawyer. “So if court has now found that no such offenses were committed, it becomes difficult to convict someone for abetting the commission of these crimes.”
A Federal High Court ordered his unconditional release in 2016, but the Nigerian government has so far refused to abide by the ruling.