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Nigerian Human Rights Defender Appeals to International Community to Speak Out to Save Yahaya

Nigerian Human Rights Defender Appeals to International Community to Speak Out to Save Yahaya

  • Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi musician sentenced to death for a WhatsApp message, is challenging the constitutionality of one of Nigeria’s most egregious blasphemy laws.   
  • Yahaya’s attorney appeals to international community at International Religious Freedom Summit to “speak up loudly on Yahaya’s behalf”

WASHINGTON, DC (2 February 2023) – Delegates from all over the globe were present at the 2023 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC over the last two days. Kola Alapinni, counsel for Yahaya Sharif Aminu, a Nigerian Sufi musician who was sentenced to death for charges of blasphemy, appealed to the international community for urgent attention to egregious abuses of religious freedom in Nigeria.  

During a session titled “IRF Will Take Us All”, Alapinni said “The Nigerian Constitution protects freedom of religion or belief, and the African Charter and international law does the same. All of you here know these basic facts of international law. That is why it is so important for everyone gathered here to speak up loudly on Yahaya’s behalf.”  

Alapinni continued, saying “this is not just about one individual case…but this is about saying no to all forms of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities and people who wish to freely discuss and share their beliefs about one of the most fundamental aspects of human experience.”  

Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International, stated: “Yahaya’s case presents a long-awaited opportunity to overturn the oppressive and draconian blasphemy law of Kano State, Nigeria. It is imperative that the international community speak out in defense of Yahaya, and against the blasphemy laws throughout the world that so deeply imperil fundamental human rights. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court of Nigeria will hear this case and bring justice for Yahaya and the millions of people that live in fear under these laws”. 

Case Summary  

As a member of a minority faith in Nigeria, Yahaya was targeted under the law for expressing his beliefs. His imprisonment, charges, and death sentence constitute religious freedom violations of the greatest severity.  

Yahaya initially was convicted without a lawyer and sentenced to death on 10 August 2020 by the Hausawa Filin Hockey upper-Sharia court. The conviction was overturned, and a new trial ordered in January 2021 based on procedural irregularities. Yahaya appealed the retrial order, arguing that the case should be dismissed entirely, and the blasphemy law be ruled unconstitutional. In August 2022, a Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the blasphemy law and affirmed the retrial order.   

Yahaya remains in prison without bail while awaiting the retrial, where he still faces a potential death penalty. Yahaya filed a notice of appeal with the Supreme Court of Nigeria in November 2022.

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