A Nigerian police officers watches a police vehicle as it goes up in flames following clashes with supporters of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) protesting against the imprisonment of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, in Abuja, on Oct. 30, 2018.
FILE - A Nigerian police officer watches a police vehicle burn after clashes with supporters of Islamic Movement of Nigeria protesting against the imprisonment of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, in Abuja, Oct. 30, 2018.

ABUJA, NIGERIA - A Nigerian court has granted the government permission to label a local Shiite Muslim group a terrorist organization, the solicitor general told Reuters on Saturday. 

Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have been marching in Abuja, calling for the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention since 2015 despite a court order to release him. 

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WATCH: Nigerian Court's Labeling of Muslim Sect as ‘Terrorists’ Spikes Tensions

The protests have often turned violent. An IMN spokesman said at least 20 of the group's members were killed this week during demonstrations. 

Dayo Apata, Nigeria's solicitor general, confirmed in a mobile text message that a federal court in Abuja had granted the government permission to proscribe the IMN, a move offering the authorities the chance to clamp down harder on the group. 

An IMN spokesman said that the group had not received any formal notice and that marches would continue. 

Zakzaky's office said plans to ban the movement had been considered since 2015 and it was not surprised by the move. 

A court in Kaduna state is set to decide on Zakzaky's bail application Monday. The Shiite group can appeal the order.