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Nigerian Court to Test Authority of Sharia Law

FILE- A girl reads verses from the Koran at a local Koranic school on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan in Nigeria's northern city of Kano July 21, 2012.

A Nigerian court on Thursday postponed a decision over a Sharia law case in the mostly Muslim northern state of Kano, putting the authority of Islamic law in Africa's most populous country to the test.

The Kano State Court of Appeal in northeastern Nigeria deferred its verdict in a case involving the young singer Yahaya Aminu Sharif, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2020.

Sharif is accused of making disparaging remarks against the Islamic Prophet Mohammed in a song that was distributed over WhatsApp messages, inciting protestors to burn down his home last year, according to Sharif's lawyer.

Shortly after Sharif's sentence, a teenager was jailed for 10 years by Kano Sharia Court over accusations of blasphemy.

The ruling sparked international outrage and several rights groups called on authorities to drop charges and release Sharif unconditionally. The secular branch of the state's high court freed the teenager but ordered a retrial for Sharif.

Sharif's lawyer, Kola Alapinni, requested the court declare the Sharia criminal code unconstitutional and acquit the singer.

Kano state prosecutors asked the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the High Court decision for a retrial. They argued that "there is nothing in the enactment of the sharia penal code which runs contrary to the spirit of the constitution."

The Nigerian constitution is neutral about religion. The nation is divided into two parts: the south, which is largely Christian, and the north, which is predominantly Muslim.

Kano is one of the states that severely enforces Sharia law, which includes the death penalty for blasphemy.

Three judges heard the case and said a ruling would be rendered before October.