LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – A Sharia court in Nigeria has sentenced to death a Nigerian Sufi cleric in northwestern Kano state on charges of committing blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.
The Kano Higher Sharia Court announced the sentence late Tuesday following months of secret trial of Abdulaziz Dauda.
The trial was held in secret because of death threats on Dauda, who has faced the wrath of mobs after he was accused of committing blasphemy in May last year.
The court found Dauda “guilty of blasphemy and criminal incitement,” according to a statement read by the court registrar Alhaji Nasiru Tuesday.
Dauda is a popular Sufi scholar from Tijjaniyya sect. He was arrested last May alongside 13 other suspects in the case.
The alleged blasphemy incident provoked massive protests in Kano which led to the destruction of properties belonging to the cleric and members of his family as well as a court building.
Blasphemy is a controversial topic in Nigeria’s secular constitution which contains contradictory provisions on blasphemy and freedom of speech, religion or thought.
While section 204 of the country’s criminal code prohibits and prescribes at least a two-year jail term punishment for blasphemy, or “insult to religion”, section 38 of the country’s constitution grants freedom of speech, thought and religion to the citizens.
Blasphemy is considered a serious crime in most parts of the country’s northern region where the Sharia court system thrives. Many people have been killed by mobs in the region after being accused of blasphemy against the prophet or the Quran.
Dauda’s death sentence is subject to appeal at a higher court.
A case similar to Dauda surfaced in 2007 in Kano when Sani Kabili, a Christian, was sentenced to three years in prison following blasphemy charges. However, a court of appeal later overturned the ruling of the Sharia court.
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