Yahaya Sharif-Aminu

Name: Yahaya Sharif-Aminu

Country/Area of Origin: Nigeria

Age: 22 years

Background: Sharif-Aminu is an Islamic gospel musician from Kano State, Nigeria. He is a member of the Tijaniyya Sufi Islamic order.

Reason for Arrest:

In a series of audio recordings of an argument were posted and circulated via a WhatsApp messaging group. Though we do not have a direct copy of the recording, in it, it is alleged that Sharif-Aminu made statements that “praised an imam from the Tijaniyya Muslim brotherhood (Ibrahim Niasse) to the extent that it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammed.” Following the online circulation and tremendously negative public response to the recording, Sharif-Aminu went into hiding, and an angry mob subsequently set fire to his home.

Sharif-Aminu was accused and convicted of blasphemy, or “insulting the religious creed” according to Section 382 of the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law. Court documents revealed that Sharif-Aminu was charged for violating the law which states that “whoever insults, defames or utters words or acts which are capable of bringing into disrespect … such a person has committed a serious crime which is punishable by death.”

Sharif-Aminu was officially sentenced to death by hanging on August 10, 2020 by the Hausawa Filin Hockey upper-Sharia court. He was subsequently given 90 days to repeal his sentence, and he is currently accessing legal counsel; however, he has been detained in an undisclosed location.

Latest Updates:

  • January 2021: On 21 January, The High Court of Kano State’s appellate division overturned Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence; however, the court has “cited irregularities in the Sharia Court’s previous trial” and ordered for a retrial. In response, Sharif-Aminu filed two grounds of appeal, and his defense attorney Kola Alapinni stated the following:
    • “The learned judges misdirected themselves in law when they annulled the judgement of the trial court and then ordered for a retrial at the shari’a court in Hauswa-Filin Hockey instead of granting the defendant a discharge and an acquittal. [Moreover,] An accused persons can only be tried and punished once for a given offence established by law. It amounts to double jeopardy and a miscarriage of justice to allow for a multiplicity of trial for the same offence.”
  • On 17 September 2020, USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie adopted Sharif-Aminu via the USCIRF Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, and made the following remarks:
    • “Sharif-Aminu’s blasphemy conviction and death sentence are a violation of international human rights law and Article 38 of the Nigerian Constitution. Authorities must overturn this sentence and ensure that Sharif-Aminu’s right to religious freedom is protected.” – USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie
  • Freemuse also released the following statement:
    • “The death sentence handed down to Yahaya Sharif-Amiu for his music is a grave breach of his right to life, right to freedom of artistic expression and violates Nigeria’s international obligations under the ICCPR. Freemuse condemns this sentence, to potentially end the life of an artist, calls for the unconditional dropping of these charges and urges Kano State authorities to abide by human rights protections of which they are party to.” – Advocacy Manager, Sverre Pedersen, Freemuse Campaigns