Jatau has been repeatedly denied bail and has been held incommunicado Photo: ADF International

Christian mother accused of blasphemy by Muslims in Nigeria is sentenced to trial

Jatau, a Christian and mother of 5, remains imprisoned for allegedly sharing a blasphemous video that condemned the lynching of Christian college student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu.

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(ZENIT News / Bauchi State, Nigeria, 12.05.2023).- On Monday, November 27, a judge in Bauchi State, Nigeria, refused to dismiss prosecutors’ indictment in her trial against Rhoda Jatau. Jatau, a Christian mother of five, has been imprisoned since May 2022 for allegedly sharing a video on WhatsApp condemning the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a Nigerian university student who was killed and set on fire by a mob of her classmates in May 2022 for sharing her Christian faith. ADF International supports Jatau’s defense.

Jatau’s lawyers had filed a «plea of nolo contendere» after the prosecution had recanted based on serious evidentiary problems. Jatau’s lawyers raised significant legal gaps in the prosecution’s case and argued that they had failed to establish the basic elements of their case against Rhoda.

Since the time of her arrest, Jatau has been repeatedly denied bail and has been held incommunicado, having only intermittent access to a lawyer and family members during court appearances.

«No one should be prosecuted for peacefully expressing themselves or their religion. The prosecution and detention of Rhoda Jatau is a travesty of justice,» said Sean Nelson, legal counsel for ADF International. «Time and time again, the prosecution has failed to present even the slightest evidence against Rhoda. While we are disappointed by the court’s ruling in a case that should never have been brought, we will continue to seek justice and freedom for Rhoda and all those suffering persecution in Nigeria.»

Lead counsel in Rhoda Jatau’s case and allied counsel for ADF International, has stated «I am disappointed with the judgment, but we will prepare for her defense. Rhoda and her family have suffered needlessly for over a year and a half. I implore everyone who can to continue to pray for her safe and speedy release.»


Rhoda Jatau 2


The decision to proceed with the prosecution follows a joint letter of complaint sent by United Nations experts to the Nigerian government, in response to appeals by ADF International and other religious freedom organizations, highlighting the danger of blasphemy laws as a violation of international human rights, and drawing attention to the cases of Yakubu and Jatau.

Jatau’s trial is scheduled to resume on December 19. Jatau faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the charges against her.

Persecution of Christians in Nigeria

The cases of Rhoda Jatau and Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu are but two examples of the widespread violence against religious minorities, including Christians in northern Nigeria, that prevails in Nigeria today.

Along with other religious minorities in Nigeria, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is particularly severe. Worldwide, more than 5,500 Christians were killed for their faith last year. Of these, 90 percent were Nigerians.

The criminalization of blasphemy in Nigeria carries dangerous implications for the country as a whole. In a country of more than 200 million people, almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, blasphemy laws are a major factor of social tension. These laws punish the innocent for expressing their beliefs, silence people from sharing their faith and perpetuate social violence. Throughout Nigeria, blasphemy laws encourage brutal mob violence and cause serious harm to Muslim minorities, Christian converts and others.

ADF International is also supporting the legal defense of Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim sentenced to death by hanging for sharing on WhatsApp the lyrics of a song deemed «blasphemous.» With the support of ADF International, Yahaya is appealing his case to Nigeria’s Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Nigeria’s death penalty blasphemy laws. Yahaya remains in prison pending his appeal. Yahaya has been in prison for more than three and a half years.

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