The Department of State Security (DSS) on Tuesday arraigned the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, before a Kaduna High Court amidst tight security to face charges of alleged involvement in unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
The appearance of El-Zakzaky marks the first time the Shiite leader would be tried in public since his arrest and detention in December 2015.
The DSS has held the Shiite leader in detention despite a court order ordering his release.
He was arrested following a clampdown on his supporters who blocked Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Tukur Buratai, from using a public road.
The development led to killing of hundreds of members of the Shiite group by the soldiers in attacks condemned by local and international rights groups. One soldier was also killed.
But the Kaduna State government is prosecuting El-Zakzaky for the death of the soldier.
It is for that trial that Mr El-Zakzaky was brought to court on Tuesday.
The Premium Times also reports that El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, were brought to court at about 9am.
They were said to have been brought into Kaduna the previous night from where he was kept.
Journalists and other members of the IMN that trooped to the court premises were barred from entering as the major road leading to the court was blocked off by armed security officers.
Persons who were not officials of the court were also turned away from the area.
Lawyer to El-Zakzaky, Maxwell Kyom, told the online medium that the cleric is being charged with unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide punishable with death.
According to him, an oral application was moved for the bail of the cleric and his wife. But the presiding judge, Gideon Kurada, asked him to put his application officially in writing.
The case was later adjourned to June 21 by the presiding judge based on application by the prosecutor for them to properly file their statement of claim.
Following the trial, IMN members protested in Kaduna, demanding the release of their leader.
A member of the group, Abdulhameed Bello, said the group was disappointed with the trial because the federal government refused to heed an earlier court ruling granting bail to the cleric.
“We call on the Federal and Kaduna State governments to as a matter of urgency obey the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja and release the Sheikh for peace to reign,” he said.
Bello explained that IMN members will continue to use all peaceful means to put pressure on the government to release the detained cleric.
Hundreds of IMN members are already being detained and tried by the police in several states and Abuja for embarking on protests demanding the cleric’s release.