Africa

Sheikh Zakzaky: Nigeria's Shia leader leaves Indian hospital

Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky
Image caption Sheikh Zakzaky's daughter says he is suffering from lead poisoning

The ailing leader of a banned Shia Muslim group in Nigeria who travelled to India for medical reasons has returned home without being treated.

Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, 66, said the Indian government had given him an ultimatum to accept offered treatment or return to Nigeria.

Sheikh Zakzaky's Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) was banned following weeks of protests by his supporters.

He and his wife Zenaat have been in police detention since 2015.

"The Indian government gave us only two hours to decide whether to accept the hospital conditions or to go back to Nigeria," Sheikh Zakzaky said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday.

He said they had opted to return to Nigeria.

"There are a lot of countries. We will go back to Nigeria and if any of them accepts our conditions we will go there," he added in the video.

Earlier this month, a high court in Abuja granted the couple medical leave on the condition that they must be accompanied by a government security escort.

A statement from IMN said Sheikh Zakzaky had decided to leave India because he did not feel in control of the situation and an "imposition of medical treatment by the Nigerian security forces in collaboration with their Indian colleagues".

Sheikh Zakzaky has suffered minor strokes and is losing his sight, according to IMN.

Earlier this week, Sheikh Zakzaky's daughter Suhaila Zakzaky told the BBC that tests done at Medanta Hospital in India showed he was suffering from lead and cadmium poisoning that might be from shrapnel in his body from when he was shot by the military in 2015.

Ms Zakzaky told the BBC her father was displeased that he was not able to be treated by his own chosen doctors.

What will happen now?

An IMN spokesman has told the BBC that on their arrival at Abuja's main airport, Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife were kept away from the public and the media.

The authorities have not confirmed his return.

The BBC's Chris Ewokor in Abuja says he is expected to return to the custody of Nigeria's secret police, the DSS.

He is facing charges of culpable homicide and other offences, all of which he denies.

He has also denied that his group, which runs hospitals and schools in some states in northern Nigeria, gets any funding from Iran.

Shias make up a small minority in predominantly Sunni Muslim northern Nigeria. Estimates put their numbers at around four million in a national population of about 190 million.

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