Hundreds of people demonstrated on Saturday May 14 in Sokoto, northwestern Nigeria, to protest against the arrest of two men suspected of having participated in the murder of Deborah Samuel, a Christian student accused of blasphemy. The young woman was stoned by a dozen people and her body burned on Thursday because of a comment posted on social networks, considered offensive to the Prophet Muhammad.
Police say they have arrested two men and are looking for other suspects appearing in a video of the murder that has been circulating on social media. In response, young Muslims took to the streets of Sokoto on Saturday morning to demand the release of the detainees.
Some of the protesters went to the palace of Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto and the highest Islamic figure in Nigeria, who condemned the killing and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice. “The crowd also demanded that the police end the hunt for those identified as having taken part in the murder”Ibrahim Arkilla, a resident of the city, told AFP.
Curfew in Sokoto
“Security forces deployed to protect the palace asked the protesters to leave, but they got out of hand”according to another local, who lives near the palace. “Police and soldiers threw tear gas canisters and fired into the air and managed to disperse the crowd”he added, without specifying whether there were any injuries.
Angry protesters then retreated to the city center where they attempted to loot shops owned by Christians, but were overpowered by law enforcement, another resident said.
“Following the sad incident that took place at Shehu Shagari School on Thursday and the developments of the morning in the metropolis (of Sokoto), I declare, with immediate effect, a curfew (…) for the next 24 hours. »Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said in a statement. “Everyone must, please, in the interest of peace, go home. »
“No one has the right to take justice into their own hands”
On Thursday, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, announced that he “strongly condemned” the murder of Deborah Samuel, claiming that “No one had the right to take justice into their own hands”.
Nigeria, a giant of 215 million people divided almost evenly between a predominantly Muslim North and a predominantly Christian South, is one of the most religious countries in the world.
In Islam, blasphemy, especially against the Prophet, is punishable by death under Sharia law, introduced in 2000 in twelve northern Nigerian states. Islamic courts, which operate alongside the state justice system, have already handed down death sentences for adultery, blasphemy or homosexuality, but no executions have taken place so far.
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