Death by Hanging: Nigerian Man facing Execution for ‘Blasphemous’ WhatsApp Posts

Yahaya-Sharif Aminu Sentenced to Death
Yahaya-Sharif Aminu Sentenced to Death

Yahaya-Sharif Aminu, who was sentenced to death in 2020 for sharing allegedly blasphemous song lyrics on WhatsApp that offended Islam, remains in prison in Nigeria as he awaits a Supreme Court appeal. United Nations experts have called for his immediate and unconditional release, highlighting concerns over human rights violations.

The U.N. experts — including Alexandra Xanthaki, special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Nazila Ghanea, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression — issued a statement urging the Nigerian government to abolish the death penalty for blasphemy, according to the legal advocacy group ADF International, which has been supporting Sharif-Aminu’s appeal since November 2022.

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“Mr. Sharif-Aminu has been in prison for too long for exercising his human rights,” the experts stated, urging the Supreme Court to prioritize his case and ensure compliance with international human rights obligations, as quoted in a statement by ADF International. They also called on the government to review his case, protect his rights, and ensure his well-being.

In August 2020, an Upper Sharia Court in Kano, Nigeria, sentenced Sharif-Aminu to death by hanging for a song he composed about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Kano State High Court quashed the conviction in January 2021, citing procedural irregularities, and ordered a retrial. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision in August 2022.

Despite these rulings, Sharif-Aminu remains in detention, challenging the retrial order at the Supreme Court.

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