Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohsen Araki looked to have sparked a potentially damaging row with Nigeria on Friday after speaking with Sheikh Zakzaky over the phone in India, in a move experts said would anger the federal government.
Per Second News confirmed that On Thursday morning, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki had a telephone conversation with Sheikh Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) who was then in India to receive medical treatment.
Learning about the physical and mental conditions of the ailing IMN cleric, Ayatollah Araki voiced concern about Sheikh Zakzaky’s health, and gave him an assurance that both Iran and the WFPIST would make every effort to contribute to the process of his medical treatment.
The Ayatollah during the lengthy phone conversation promised to support the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). A state-run TV station in Iran echoed the Ayatollah’s words, calling the phone call a great gesture.
Sources in the Presidency said the call breached agreement with the IMN leader and further infuriated the federal government.
Zakzaky, for his part, expressed gratitude to Iran for its helpful efforts, saying the course of his treatment at New Delhi’s Medanta hospital has not still begun as at Thursday.
Speaking to Iranian TV, Ayatollah Araki, said Sheikh Zakzaky’s morale was high.
Sheikh Zakzaky has abandoned his treatment in India because the severe security restrictions adversely affected the course of his medical treatment, he said,
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Grace Isu Gekpe, in a statement made available to newsmen, said that the cleric refused to subject himself to preliminary medical checks after state officials resisted his pressure to hand over his International Passport to him.
It was also stated that El-Zakzaky requested to be allowed to check into a 5-Star hotel instead of a hospital, and demanded free movement.
The statement read: “He also demanded free movement and access to visitors of all kinds, and also requested to be allowed to check into a 5-Star Hotel instead of being admitted in the hospital.
“That request was rejected on the ground that he came into the country for medicals, and not as a tourist, especially with the Visa issued on medical grounds and not for tourism.
“He also demanded that Police protection be withdrawn from him by the Indian authorities.
The top Shiite cleric has been held in detention since December 2015 and was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, disruption of public peace and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty.
Zakzaky has lost his left eyesight in a raid by the Nigerian army on his residence in the northern town of Zaria in December 2015.
During the raid, the cleric’s wife sustained serious wounds too and more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons were killed.