10 to die by hanging in Nigeria for blasphemy and inciting violence

In Kano state, on Tuesday, a Shariah high court sentenced a popular Muslim cleric and nine others to death by hanging for blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed and inciting a religious crisis.

Cleric Abdulaziz Dauda, commonly known Inyass, was said to have equated the Prophet Muhammad with the late leader of another religion during an assembly – the Maulud festivity – in Kano, mid last year. At the ruling, the court said that Dauda and nine others also led people to perpetuate violence in reaction to their religious precepts.

According to those who filed the suit against him, hundreds of Muslim youths burnt down a Shariah court located at the Rijiyar Lemo area of Kano in protest against the blasphemous remarks made by Dauda.

Cleric Dauda was arrested in Abuja on the 18th of August 2015 and brought to Kano for trial on a two-count charge of blasphemy and inciting violence. He and the other accused people were found guilty after five witnesses testified against them, including the police.

But, based on the modus operandi of Nigeria’s Islamic courts, all hope is not lost as they all have the right to seek redress at an upper appellate court. Nigerian Islamic courts give a three-month grace period for anyone dissatisfied with the ruling of the Shariah court to appeal to the Shariah Court of Appeal in the state. The case of Amina Lawal is a typical example of a death sentence overruled by the Shariah Court of Appeal.

However, if the case cannot be settled there, it can then be taken to the Federal Court of Appeal, which is secular and finally, to the Supreme Court. At these courts, judges who are learned in Islamic law would be convened by the court’s president to hear and preside over the case.

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