An independent group of United Nations human rights experts has called on Nigerian authorities to release a young Muslim singer who has been sentenced to death over an allegedly blasphemous song.
Yahaya Sharif-Aminu has been identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as a gospel musician from northern Kano state and a member of the Sufi Tijaniyya order.
The 22-year-old singer was convicted and sentenced to death by a Sharia court in August for performing a song through the WhatsApp online messaging platform that “praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood (Ibrahim Niasse) to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad,” according to the USCIRF.
Experts with the U.N. Human Rights Special Procedures group say a mob burned down Sharif-Aminu’s family home on March 4 after local politicians called for his execution.
The experts said they are “deeply concerned over the lack of due process” in Sharif-Aminu’s case, including being held incommunicado and having no access to a lawyer during his initial trial, which was not open to the public.
One of the U.N. experts, Karima Bennoune, the special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, says, “Application of the death penalty for artistic expression or for sharing a song on the internet is a flagrant violation of international human rights law, as well as of Nigeria’s constitution.”
The experts are calling for Sharif-Aminu’s sentence to be overturned and for Nigerian authorities to guarantee his safety and due process while he appeals his conviction.