A federal appeals court in Kano State quashed an appeal Wednesday against a death sentence given to Yahaya Aminu Sharif, a singer accused of blasphemy saying the religious ruling was constitutional.
The sentence was handed over by one of the country’s Islamic Sharia courts which operate in the north alongside common law.
The religious courts have previously handed down death sentences for adultery, murder and homosexuality but no executions have been carried out.
A Sharia court in Kano in August 2020 ordered Sharif’s death by hanging for expressions considered derogatory against the Prophet Mohammed.
The singer appealed his conviction.
In November 2020, the Kano court dismissed the death sentence and ordered a retrial before the Kano state Sharia appeals court.
The retrial at the Sharia appeals court in January 2021 upheld his conviction.
However, Sharif approached the Kano high court again which ordered his case be retried at the initial court by another judge.
Sharif’s lawyers appealed that verdict too, saying he should be tried in a secular court and challenged the legality of his trial by a Sharia court.
On Wednesday, the federal court ruled in favour of the Kano State court which had ordered the retrial at a Sharia court.
“The appeal lacks merit, and the case is hereby dismissed,” said judge Abubakar Mu’azu Lamido, in a 17-minute judgement read via Zoom.
“Sharia law is constitutional… The attempt by the appellants to prove the illegality of Sharia law is therefore unfounded,” Lamido said.
Sharif’s lawyer, Kola Alapinni, said the singer would appeal the ruling at the supreme court.
“It’s safe to say that we will go to the supreme court,” Alapinni told AFP via email.
The singer was accused of insulting the Prophet in a song he shared online, which caused riots in the city.
Mobs burnt his family home and took to the streets demanding prosecution, leading to his arrest.
Sharif belongs to a branch of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, whose beliefs are considered heretical by some because of their interpretation of some basic Islamic principles.
Sharif’s conviction is the second death sentence to be handed down for blasphemy since a stricter version of Sharia law was introduced in the early 2000s.
A Kano Sharia court sentenced Abdul Nyass, a Sufi Muslim cleric, to death in 2015 for making blasphemous statements against the Prophet.
Sharif and Nyass belong to the same branch of the Tijaniyya Sufi order.