St. Louis, Mo., Dec 16, 2022 / 14:15 pm
A Nigerian musician is taking a case to the country’s Supreme Court challenging a death sentence he was given in 2020 for “blasphemy,” a case his lawyers hope will overturn the harsh blasphemy laws that have plagued the country’s Christians and other religious minorities for years.
Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim, was first convicted and sentenced to death in August 2020 under the state’s Sharia-based blasphemy law, which criminalizes disrespect for the prophet Muhammed. The law is administered by Kano State, which is located in an area that has suffered from the repression and persecution of Christians by Boko Haram in recent years.
Sharif-Aminu is bringing his appeal with support from ADF International, a faith-based legal group. According to the group, Sharif-Aminu was convicted in 2020 — despite not having legal representation — after sharing audio messages on WhatsApp of a song he composed, which the court deemed blasphemous toward the prophet Muhammed. Though that first conviction was overturned in 2021, he is now awaiting a retrial, where he could face the death penalty once more. He is currently in prison without bail.
ADF International says his Supreme Court appeal has the potential to overturn Northern Nigeria’s blasphemy laws, thus enabling Christian converts, minority Muslims, and others to speak more freely about their faith and to be protected from the community violence that blasphemy accusations frequently bring with them. At least 12 northern Nigerian states follow Sharia law and have blasphemy laws. Sharia courts hand down sentences that include floggings, amputation, and the death penalty depending on the crime, the BBC reported.