A Kano State Upper Sharia Court on Thursday sentenced an Islamic cleric, Abduljabbar Kabara, to death by hanging after he was found guilty of the 4-count charge of blasphemy filed by the Kano State government.
Mr Kabara, who is the son of the late Nasiru Kabara, a leader of the Qadariyya Islamic Movement in West Africa, was arrested at his home in Kano and arraigned on 16 July 2021, before an Upper Sharia Court at ‘Kofar Kudu’, Emir’s palace.
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He was charged by the Kano State government with blasphemy, incitement, and sundry offences.
The government claimed that the cleric was famous for controversial religious commentaries and statements, which were regarded as embarrassing to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
On Thursday, the judge, Ibrahim Sarki-Yola, reviewed the court proceedings from last year, for about four hours. The proceedings reviewed include the hearing of witnesses and objections of the accused person. The court said it is satisfied that the accused is medically okay following a psychiatric certification.
The judge said Mr Kabara sacked his lawyers on the accusations that they were working against him. And at a point, he opted to defend himself without a lawyer, to which the court disagreed and provided a lawyer for him because of the gravity of the allegations against him.
The judge said he is satisfied that the state has proven the four-count charge filed against the cleric. The judge also dismissed the cleric’s arguments as a mere ‘academic exercise’.
The witnesses who testified against the cleric narrated how Mr Kabara on 10 August 2019 made allegedly blasphemous comments against the Holy Prophet Muhammad at two different religious gatherings in his mosque within Kano’s metropolis.
But the accused objected and dismissed the witnesses saying that their testimonies against him were based on differences in the understanding of the Islamic religion.
However, the judge said the court accepted the statements of the witnesses. The judge also relied on an audio recording, admitted to by the accused, where Mr Kabara was making the alleged blasphemous comments.
“The court admitted that the comments were made at a gathering at the cleric’s mosque at ‘Gwale Filin Mushe’ while addressing his followers who hailed him as he made the comments.
“The court after citing several references agreed that those comments by the cleric were admitted by the court as blasphemous comments against the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
“The prosecutors also convinced the court that the accused person deliberately interpreted the religious books and fabricated the blasphemous comments against the Holy Prophet Muhammad,” the judge, Mr Sarki-Yola, said.
The judge asked the defence counsel whether he has anything to present before the court before the final judgement was read. The defence counsel, Abubakar Ado, pleaded with the court for leniency on the ground that his client made the comments out of ignorance and asked to court to consider that the accused person was a breadwinner with wives and children.
However, while the defence counsel was making the plea for his client, the accused person, Mr Kabara, interrupted. He said he did not ask any lawyer to speak on his behalf and that whatever the lawyer said did not represent him.
He asked the court to allow him to speak for himself for the last time before the judgement was read.
The judge obliged his request.
Mr Kabara verbally attacked the judge. He accused him of being unfair and challenged him to sentence him to death.
While pointing at the judge, Mr Kabara said, “You Ibrahim Sarki Sani Yola, changed the whole narration about the case go ahead and sentence me to death, I will die honourably meeting my God.”
“And I am pleading to my followers not to worry about the sentencing as I will die as a righteous person,” Mr Kabara said while returning to his seat at the accused box.