The groups in a joint statement titled, ‘Joint Civil Society Statement On The Conviction And Sentencing Of Nigerian Singer Yahaya Sharif Aminu,’ said they were deeply concerned that Sharif’s conviction and subsequent sentencing were in violation of Nigeria’s regional and international obligations to respect, protect and promote freedom of expression, opinion, and belief.
The statement was signed by the Committee for Relevant Art, African Defenders, Arterial Network Nigeria, PEN Nigeria, Artistes at Risk Connection, Culture Advocates Caucus, Human Rights Forum of Lead Africa International, Intro Afrika, Freemuse and African Human Rights Network.
The statement indicated, “The sentencing to death of Mr. Sharif amounts to a cruel and inhumane practice, which has no place in modern society.”
On August 10, 2020, an Upper Shari’a Court sitting at Hausawa Filin Hockey in Kano State, sentenced the singer to death by hanging.
He was accused of one count of insulting the religious creed, contrary to Section 382 (6) of the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law of 2000, for a song which became public knowledge in March after he allegedly circulated it on WhatsApp in February 2020.
The song is said to have “praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad.”
According to the groups, it has been reported that while Sharif was legally represented during the trial, the proceedings were closed to the public which raised fair trial rights concerns.
It stated, “The right to a public trial which is guaranteed under Nigeria’s constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, both of which Nigeria is a signatory to, ensure transparency and guard an accused against secretive, corrupt or unfair proceedings.
“We are further concerned that since his conviction, it has been reported that Mr. Sharif is being held incommunicado in detention with no access to legal representation and to his immediate family. This is a further violation of his due process rights and potentially jeopardizes his right to an appeal for which he has 30 days from the date of sentencing.
“The case of Mr. Sharif is not in isolation as there have been several other artistes in Nigeria who have been arrested and criminally charged in relation to their artistic works.