TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Hundreds of Nigerians poured into the streets in the capital to demand the release of imprisoned Shiite cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky.

The demonstrators took to the streets of Abuja on Friday for the fourth consecutive day, denouncing the incarceration of the cleric, his wife and hundreds of other Muslims as illegal, according to the official website of IMN.

They also gathered at Abuja’s National Mosque holding banners and posters reading, “Zakzaky Needs Urgent Medical Attention” and “Free Zakzaky for Treatment”.  

The protests started a day after the detained leader made his first public appearance in two years on January 14 after police arrested dozens of members of the group during protests calling for his release.

Sheikh Zakzaky has been imprisoned at an unknown location without charge since December 2015 after his followers clashed with the army in the northern city of Zaria.

A judicial inquiry the following year said 347 IMN members were killed by the military and buried in mass graves.

The violent repression of IMN and detention of Zakzaky, despite a court ruling that he could not be held without charge and should be released, drew accusations of human rights abuses by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

In a brief exchange in the capital Abuja, Zakzaky told reporters that authorities had allowed him to see his doctor for treatment of an unspecified condition.

“For the first time at least the security (officers) have allowed me to see my own doctors,” he said, according to footage of the exchange. “I am getting better”.

In 2016, Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna declared IMN unlawful on security grounds, angering its adherents as anyone convicted of being a member could be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The ban triggered a wave of attacks on IMN members, worsening sectarian rivalries in northern Nigeria, where the army is also fighting Boko Haram Takfiri militants who have killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.