Nigeria: Secular High Court upholds death penalty for blasphemy

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , ,

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – In a move that has caused severe consternation among rights groups, the secular High Court in Nigeria’s Kano state has upheld a recent death sentence given by a Sharia court to a man accused of blasphemy, International Christian Concern (ICC) reports. Controversially, Kano is one of 12 northern Nigerian states whose legal system operates under both the secular Nigerian penal code and the Islamic Sharia law.

The case concerns 22-year-old Aminu Sharif, a singer who is accused of appearing to honor an imam above the Muslim prophet Mohammed in an audio tape that went public, ICC said. Sharif was originally tried without representation, leading a secular court to rule his case should be heard by a Sharia court. In August 2020, the Kano State Sharia Court found Sharif guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.

While Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees religious freedom, including the right “to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance,” Sharia courts enforce adherence to what may be extreme interpretations of Islamic law and mete out severe punishment for infractions.

Highlighting Sharif’s case, Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern, said the Biden administration must reconsider its decision to remove Nigeria from its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). “Nigeria’s long history of disregard for religious freedom has taken another turn for the worse today, highlighting yet again the mistake the U.S. made last year in taking Nigeria off the CPC list,” King said in a statement. “As we look forward to the Department of State’s CPC announcement later this year, we can only hope and pray that they correct their mistake and designate Nigeria as a CPC once more,” King asserted.

In a separate statement about the implications of Sharif’s case for already heavily Christians in Nigeria, Matias Perttula, ICC’s Director of Advocacy, said: “The court’s decision is a strike against religious freedom in Nigeria and officially sets the legal structure for the continued persecution of Nigeria’s Christians. This decision was clearly a step back for all human rights, religious freedom, and freedom as a whole for Nigeria.”

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