UN legal experts on Monday asked Nigeria to release a 22-year-old singer who was sentenced to death for an allegedly blasphemous song, saying the verdict violates international law.
Yahaya Aminu Sharif was convicted last month by a Sharia court in Kano, the commercial center of the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria, after performing the song and sharing it on WhatsApp.
“Music is not a crime,” said a joint statement by the group of UN rapporteurs.
“The use of the death penalty for artistic expression or for sharing a song on the Internet is a blatant violation of international human rights law as well as the Nigerian constitution,” said Karima Bennoune, special rapporteur on cultural rights.
Legal experts said Nigeria should overturn the death sentence and keep the singer safe while he appealed. Protesters angry at the song burned Sharif’s family home on March 4.
A spokesman for the state judiciary in Kano, which operates sharia courts alongside civil courts, said the decision was made with legal support, adding that he was unaware of the appeal.
“If we are asked to release him, we have to go to court,” said spokesman Baba Jibo Ibrahim.
Kano’s judicial system has been in the spotlight since a Sharia court last month sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison after he was accused of making blasphemous statements during an argument.
The head of the Polish Auschwitz Memorial wrote to the Nigerian President asking him to excuse the boy Omar Farouq and offer him to serve part of the prison sentence himself.
Kano’s Sharia courts are active, but death sentences for blasphemy are uncommon and the most recent, imposed on nine followers of the Muslim Tijani sect in 2015, have yet to be carried out.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)