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Sheikh zakzaky trial begins with witnesses account

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Witnesses have begun testifying in the trial of the leader of a banned Shia Muslim group, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, at a High Court in the city of Kaduna.

Sheikh Zakzaky, leader of Nigeria’s main Shia group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, and his wife Zinah were arrested in December 2015, when his followers clashed with the army in the city of Zaria.

They are accused of inciting violence, murder and disturbing public peace among other charges.

They deny the charges brought against them by the Kaduna state government.

Two military officers were the first to testify on Wednesday.

But details of their testimony at the closed-door court sitting have yet to emerge.

They were cross-examined by the defendants’ lawyers.

One of Sheikh Zakzaky’s lawyers, Sadau Garba, told the BBC that the ailing cleric and his wife, who were being held in prison, were not brought to the court, as earlier agreed by all parties. The sitting continues tomorrow with more witnesses expected to testify.

Rights groups had said that more than 300 followers of Sheikh Zakzaky were killed during the 2015 clashes and a subsequent military crackdown, resulting in the cleric being badly wounded in the eye.

At the time, the military alleged that members of the banned group, who were holding a religious procession, attempted to assassinate Nigeria’s army chief, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, when they blocked a highway on which his convoy was travelling.

Earlier this year, another High Court acquitted more than 100 of Sheikh Zakzaky’s followers over the incident, resulting in their release.

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