The Nigerian government says it has banned a Shia religious movement whose elderly leader is due to appear in court today.
Regular protests by members of the pro-Iran Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), who are demanding the release of their leader Ibraheem Zakzaky, turned violent last week.
A senior policeman and a journalist were shot dead in the chaos. The group says 20 of its supporters also died.
In a series of tweets on Sunday evening, the Nigerian presidency confirmed the ban on IMN, saying it wasn’t stopping the country’s Shia minority from practicing their faith, but rather 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.
The ban has been labelled “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.
Human rights groups have condemned the police’s violent response to the protests. A federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of Sheikh Zakzaky in 2016, but a state court has ignored the ruling.