Yahaya Sharif-Aminu

FRF appeals death sentence

On August 10, Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani at the Upper Shariah Court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano State, Nigeria, sentenced 22, year-old Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, to death by hanging. He was given 30 days to appeal.

Yahaya was accused of making comments on WhatsApp that elevated Imam Ibrahim Inyass above Muhammad. Shortly afterward a mob gathered around his family home and caused enough damage to render it uninhabitable. The mob then moved to the headquarters of the Islamic police and demanded action against the singer.

Mr. Sharif-Aminu was tried and sentenced without legal counsel. He is was held incommunicado making it impossible for him to seek legal advice to lodge an appeal.

In any case, the intimidation prevalent in the Northern State makes it next to impossible to find a lawyer who is prepared to act for a blasphemer. Most lawyers feel the punishment is justified and wish to see events take their course. Others, accept that everyone has a right to legal advice and due process but are cowed by the extreme anger that surrounds blasphemy cases—no lawyer’s safety can be guaranteed in this state. Even lawyers who are prepared to stand up for justice, know they they face a future of rejection by their legal colleagues and a probable end to their career.

This comes as Mubarak Bala has been held incommunicado in the same Nigerian state for 16 weeks for allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet. Both Sharif-Aminu’s case and Bala’s case have been characterized by a disregard for due process and violation of their human rights.

A chorus of condemnation has rained down on Kano State from Amnesty International, The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and many others. Two petitions have been started at Change.org, including one addressed to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that had 85,000 signatures at the time of writing this. Please sign it here.

FRF decided to take action on behalf of Sharif-Aminu and filed an appeal on his behalf. On Thursday, September 3, lawyer Kola Alapinni, an FRF Trustee, filed an appeal against the death sentence. This removes the immediate danger to Sharif-Aminu’s life. Now we will seek access to him in order to prepare his defence.

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