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Nigeria bans pro-Iran Shia group after protests

ABUJA, Nigeria – The government of Nigeria says it has banned a Shia religious movement whose leader appeared in court on Monday.

Members of the pro-Iran Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) repeatedly staged regular demonstrations demanding the release of their elderly leader Ibraheem Zakzaky.

During the protest, a senior police officer and a journalist were shot dead in the chaos. Meanwhile, the group says 20 of its supporters also died.

The Nigerian presidency confirmed in a series of social media posts and tweets the ban on IMN, saying it wasn’t stopping the country’s Shia minority from practicing their faith, but instead wanted to discourage violence and the destruction of public property. It followed the approval of a government court order made on Friday which no representative for IMN has seen.

Sources in Nigeria says the ban has been labeled “a huge joke” by IMN, which added in a statement that it was consulting with lawyers.

Sheikh Zakzaky’s lawyers are requesting his release so he can receive medical treatment abroad. They say he’s suffered two minor strokes since being in detention, and that his vision is deteriorating.

In a related development, several human rights groups have condemned the police’s violent response to the demonstration. Also, a federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of Sheikh Zakzaky in 2016, but a state court has ignored the ruling.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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