A sharia high court in Nigeria on Wednesday sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine others to death by hanging for committing blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The prosecution [BBC report] claimed that Duada, a preacher also known as Abdul Inyass, stated that the Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the founder of a rival sect, enjoyed a larger following in the region than Muhammad. The prosecution further asserted that Dauda and his disciples incited people to perpetrate religious violence. The trial took place behind closed doors to avoid public protest.
Several mainly Muslim northern states in Nigeria introduced sharia courts [official website] into law after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999, and a version of sharia is practiced alongside Western-style justice. Islamist rebel group Boko Haram [BBC backgrounder] continues to seek the overthrow of the Nigerian government to install more pro-Muslim control. In July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on [JURIST report] Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate reports of both military abuses and crimes committed by the Islamist rebel group. In June Amnesty International reported [JURIST report] that around 8,000 Nigerian civilians have been killed since 2011 as a result of abuses by military forces. The report attributes civilian deaths to torture, starvation, suffocation and executions by military forces at detention camps.