July 29, 2019 / 1:34 PM / 21 days ago

Nigerian court adjourns bail hearing for leader of banned Shi'ite group

Lawyers walk past police officers standing guard outside a court, that is set to rule on Shi'ite leader Zakzaky's bail application, in Kaduna, Nigeria July 29, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) - A Nigerian court on Monday adjourned a bail hearing for the leader of a banned Shi’ite Muslim group, which says at least 20 of its followers died in clashes with police last week while holding protests to demand his release.

Supporters of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leader Ibrahim Zakzaky say he should be released on bail to receive medical treatment in Egypt. The court in the northern city of Kaduna adjourned the bail hearing until Aug. 5.

Zakzaky was arrested after a 2015 clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground in northern Kaduna state. He has remained in detention despite a court order in Dec. 2016 to release him.

Zakzaky’s lawyer, Femi Falana, said eight medical reports attached to the bail application showed Zakazy requires urgent medical attention in Egypt.

“Doctors have confirmed that he has lost an eye and the second one may be lost on account of advanced glaucoma. Secondly, pellets in his body have not been removed,” said Falana. He said the pellets - shrapnel from the 2015 clash - was causing lead poisoning, having been in his body for four years.

Prosecution lawyer Dari Bayero said the authorities oppose the bail application and believe Nigeria’s medical facilities can treat any of the religious leader’s ailments.

IMN was banned over the weekend for inciting violence after clashes with police at protests demanding his release. The group said on Friday at least 20 people had died in clashes last week. Police did not give a death toll. [nL8N24R4CO][nL8N24T0ZB]

The IMN is the largest Shi’ite group in Nigeria, where around half the population is Muslim, overwhelmingly Sunni.

Reporting by Garba Muhammad; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Catherine Evans and Peter Graff

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