An unprecedented number of international religious freedom advocates sign letter demanding freedom of young Nigerian

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, 22, convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death for a WhatsApp message with song lyrics

Church of Scientology joined 209 international human rights and religious freedom advocates, parliamentarians, artists and others to save man from death penalty

No matter our faith, politics or nationality we all must stand together to protect our rights and those of others.”
— Rev. Susan Taylor of the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, June 8, 2023/ -- In a letter addressed to the President of Nigeria, the international human rights and religious freedom community joined in expressing grave concern over Nigeria’s continuing persecution of prisoners of conscience for “blasphemy” allegations.

Over 200 advocates are calling for the immediate release of Nigerian prisoner of conscience, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, remarking that no person should be sentenced to death for personal expression. Mr. Sharif-Aminu was criminally charged as a result of a WhatsApp message he sent.

The death penalty remains a legal sanction for blasphemy in Nigeria and continues to be imposed throughout the country. In 2019, over 54 death sentences were recorded. In April 2023, 3298 people were under death sentence. In Nigeria, the 2004 National Study Group on Death Penalty and the 2007 Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice both stressed that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu is a 22-year-old Islamic gospel singer belonging to the minority Tijaniyyah Sufi Islamic sect. On August 10, 2020, he was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by a Kano State Sharia court for reportedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a song shared in a WhatsApp message.

Mr. Sharif-Aminu has remained in prison since March of 2020. In January 2021, a higher court in Kano State overturned Sharif-Aminu’s conviction and ordered his case to be retried due to irregularities in the original trial. More recently in August 2022, the Kano State Appeals Court affirmed Sharif-Aminu's order for retrial and in November 2022, Sharif-Aminu filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

The international community, consisting of prominent parliamentarians from Europe; a former congressman from the United States; organizations from Vietnam, Germany, the United States, South Africa and Nigeria; and faith groups including Muslims, Catholics, Christians, and many other religious denominations, are demanding that Mr. Sharif-Aminu be released, and that basic freedoms be protected for all peoples in Nigeria as stated in international religious freedom and human rights covenants.

“Mr. Sharif-Aminu should never have been arrested and imprisoned in the first instance. Instead, he has had to suffer mob violence and spend years in prison for peacefully sharing his beliefs with others,” the letter stated.

Rev. Susan Taylor of the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office, who signed onto the letter and works with colleagues on the International Religious Freedom Roundtable to help bring this message to every country, said, “No matter our faith, politics or nationality we all must stand together to protect our rights and those of others.”

In 2020, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Frederick A. Davie announced that he had adopted Yahaya Sharif-Aminu as a prisoner of conscience and advocates for him as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “Sharif-Aminu’s blasphemy conviction and death sentence are a violation of international human rights law and Article 38 of the Nigerian Constitution,” Commissioner Davie stated. “Authorities must overturn this sentence and ensure that Sharif-Aminu’s right to religious freedom is protected.”

In late 2020, the bipartisan House Resolution 512, calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws, passed the US House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 386-3. The resolution called for the immediate release of religious prisoners of conscience worldwide. As more than 80 countries use blasphemy laws to persecute and imprison religious minorities and dissenters, the House asserted the essential importance of freedom of religion and liberty of conscience globally.

Rev. Susan Taylor
National Affairs Office
+1 202-667-6404
email us here