A Nigerian court on Wednesday ruled that Islamic religious law does not violate the nation’s constitution, discrediting a test-case challenge from a musician who was sentenced to death in August 2020 on the charge of blasphemy.
However, the Kano court also upheld a lower court’s call for a retrial. Yahaya Aminu Sharif was convicted of having shared a ‘sacrilegious message’ on WhatsApp and was sentenced to death , two years ago by a sharia court.
The high court in Kano dismissed the conviction and ordered a retrial but Sharif appealed, challenging the constitutionality of the religious law.
Nigeria’s has fairly equal Christian and Muslim population, with the constitution neutral on religion. Kano enforces sharia, including the death penalty against blasphemy.
Judge Abubakar Muazu Lamido said on Wednesday the objection by Sharif, who has been in prison since 2020, was unfounded and was made “more out of sentiment than (in line with the) law”.
“The appeal is devoid of merit and is therefore dismissed,” Lamido said in a ruling delivered via Zoom.
The Kano state government also opposed the appeal which was heard in June 2022, arguing that sharia does not violate the national charter, a view held by many in northern Nigeria.
When Sharif was sentenced to death in 2020, a young boy was jailed for 10 years by Kano Sharia Court over similar allegations.
The rulings drew international disapproval and the secular branch of the state’s high court freed the teenager but ordered Sharif’s retrial. Sharif’s lawyer is studying Wednesday’s judgement and will respond in due course.
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