Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Blasphemy: Court Officials Frustrate Singer’s Appeal

Moves made to appeal the death sentence given to a singer, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, was stalled again on Tuesday as officials of the Upper Sharia Court in Kano State refused to make available certified true copies of the judgment.

Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to death on August 10, 2020, for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, was given 30 days by the court to appeal the judgment, meaning that the time would lapse on Wednesday, September 9.

For the appeal to be accepted at the Court of Appeal, the convict is expected to personally sign the notice of the appeal, while certified copies of the original judgment will be attached to it.

Reports coming to REPORTERSWALL say Sharif-Aminu had been denied access to his lawyers while Sharia court officials had also failed to provide copies of the judgment.

Confirming the development to our correspondent on Tuesday, Human Rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said he had continued to make efforts to get the judgment.

He said there was a need for things to move quickly since Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had said last week said he would sign the convict’s death warrant once the time for the appeal lapsed.

“They have not released the judgment and time is running out. And if we cannot obtain copies of the judgment, we cannot appeal. They have just been saying the judgment is not ready and the days are counting,” Falana said.

The musician, who is a resident of Sharifai in Kano metropolis, was accused of committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020. Irate youths burnt down his family home and led a protest to the Sharia Police, Hisbah, demanding Sharif Aminu’s death.

Some human rights activists in Kano told our correspondent that many lawyers had refused to take up Sharif-Aminu’s case because of the volatile nature of the state.

An activist said, “Most of the human right lawyers in Kano that I have asked to take up the case have refused because they are afraid that their chambers could be burnt down or they could be attacked or killed for defending a blasphemer.

“And of course, when it comes to such sensitive religious matters, the police usually look the other way. The political leaders also keep mute or come out to support Sharia because they want to remain popular among their people.”

The Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, which is very active in Kano and other states practising Sharia, had endorsed the death sentence, stating that the trial was fair.

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However, global rights group, Amnesty International, had said in a statement that the musician, from all indications, was not given a fair hearing.

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