UN Experts Urge Nigerian Govt To Lift Death Sentence Of 22–Year Old Singer

September 29, 2020
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United Nations human rights experts Monday asked Nigeria to release 22-year-old singer Yahaya Aminu Sharif, who was condemned to death last month by a sharia court in Kano.

Sharif has been accused of releasing an allegedly blasphemous song, which he performed and shared on WhatsApp.

Music is not a crime,” read a joint statement from the group of U.N. rapporteurs, saying and said the sentence broke international law.

“Application of the death penalty for artistic expression or for sharing a song on the internet is a flagrant violation of international human rights law, as well as of Nigeria’s constitution,” said Karima Bennoune, special rapporteur on cultural rights.

The rights experts implored the Nigerian Government to overturn the death sentence and guarantee the singer’s safety while he launched an appeal. Protesters enraged by the song burned down Sharif’s family home on March 4.

A spokesman for the Kano state judiciary, which runs sharia courts alongside the civil courts, said the decision was taken with legal backing, adding that he was unaware of the appeal.

“If we are requested to release him, it has to be through legal procedure,” said spokesman Baba Jibo Ibrahim.

Kano’s justice system truly came under the spotlight when a sharia court sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison last month, due to accusations of blasphemous statements during an argument.

The head of Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial has written to Nigeria’s president asking him to pardon the boy, Omar Farouq, and offering to serve part of the jail term himself as he could not “remain indifferent” as he represented a place where children were imprisoned and murdered.

Piotr Cywinski said dozens of people from around the world had also volunteered to serve part of Farouq’s jail term.

“From the United States, from Europe, from Asia, from Africa, including Nigeria … I’m not even able to sit down and count them all but there are certainly many more than 120,” Cywinski told Reuters.

Meanwhile, speaking on the matter last week, Kano Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, said Shariff-Aminu can appeal the judgement up to the Supreme Court.

Ganduje had revealed this during a briefing with State House Correspondents in Abuja, after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani, had said he could appeal against the verdict.

“He has already appealed,” Ganduje said on Tuesday. “So that process is going on. And that process will continue up to the Supreme Court.

“For the time being, we are waiting for the judicial processes.”

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