Witnesses said that gunfire could be heard and the air was thick with teargas as soldiers and police officers made arrests in the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday, presstv reported.
Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) — which Sheikh Zakzaky heads — regularly take to the streets of Abuja to call for his release. Live ammunition and teargas have been used by security forces to curb the protest rallies.
The latest use of force by Nigerian forces comes a day after at least six people were killed in a similar confrontation in the administrative heart of Abuja.
In a recent letter to the United Nations (UN), dozens of Western intellectuals called on UN chief Antonio Guterres to pressure Nigeria to release the senior Muslim figure. They also urged the world body to take concrete action against ongoing violations being committed against scholars and rights campaigners by Nigerian authorities and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier this month, Zakzaky’s son, Mohammad, said after visiting him that he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition. Mohammad added that large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium had been found in Zakzaky’s blood and the cleric needed to be immediately hospitalized.
The IMN says the cleric has been poisoned in prison and requires urgent medical care abroad. It says the group would hold President Buhari responsible “if anything should happen to Zakzaky or his wife in detention”.
Sheikh Zakzaky has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye. Three of his sons also lost their lives in the brutal crackdown, while his wife sustained serious wounds and more than 300 of his followers were killed.
Muktar Aabdulrahman Auwal, a spokesman for IMN, told reporters at an event on Sunday that President Buhari was behind the Nigerian army’s massacre of the Muslims supporting Sheikh Zakzaky in the northern city of Zaria.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.