Q&As: Kirsten Han, anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore

In the third of the DPRU's (Death Penalty Research Unit, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law) series of Q&As with death penalty experts from around the world, Kirsten Han, an anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore, tells DPRU Research Officer Jocelyn Hutton about her current work and about her involvement in the case of the recently executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam . Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do in relation to the death penalty? A lot of my contribution to the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Singapore has to do with storytelling, since that fits with the skills that I have as a writer and journalist, and because abolitionist perspectives, or any in-depth coverage of capital punishment, are missing from the local government-controlled mainstream media. I write about death row prisoners and the experiences of their families, try to humanise this issue. For many Singaporeans, it’s so distant and so abstract that it’s very easy to dismiss; so

Nigeria | Christian student accused of blasphemy stoned to death

Muslim students in northwest Nigerian city of Sokoto on Thursday stoned a Christian student to death and burnt her corpse after accusing her of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, police said.

Dozens of Muslim students of Shehu Shagari College of Education went on rampage after fellow student Deborah Samuel made a statement on social media which they considered offensive against the Prophet Muhammad, Sanusi Abubakar, a Sokoto police spokesman said in a statement.

The ‘students forcefully removed the victim from the security room where she was hidden by the school authorities, killed her and burnt the building’, Abubakar said.

He said that the students ‘banded together with miscreants’ and blocked the highway outside the school before police teams dispersed them.

Abubakar said that two suspects had been arrested over the incident.

Sokoto is among a dozen northern states where the strict Islamic legal system or Sharia is in operation.

State information commissioner Isah Bajini Galadanci in a statement confirmed the ‘unfortunate incident in which a student at the college lost her life’.

A student who gave his name as Babangida, accused the murdered student of posting ‘the offensive remark on a students, Whatsapp group which everyone saw’.

He said, ‘Muslim students in the school who were infuriated by her insult mobilised and beat her to death.’

His account was supported by three other students.

Footage from the rampage shared on social media, showed the dead student in a pink dress laying facedown among piles of stones.

The video also showed the mob flogging the corpse while hurling insults at it before piling used vehicle tyres on top and setting it on fire amid shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar’.

Police said all suspects identified in the video would be arrested.

The state government has ordered the immediate closure of the school with a view to determining ‘the remote and immediate causes of the incident’.

Blasphemy in Islam, especially against the Prophet, attracts death penalty under Sharia law which operates alongside common law in the region.

Two Muslims were separately sentenced to death in 2015 and 2020 by Sharia courts for blasphemy against the Prophet.

But the cases are still on appeal.

In many cases, the accused are killed by mobs without going through the legal process.

Last year, a mob in Darazo district in northeastern Bauchi state burnt a man to death accused of insulting the Prophet. 

In 2016, a 74-year-old Christian trader, Bridget Agbahime was beaten to death by a Muslim mob outside her shop in Kano after accusing her of insulting the Prophet.

In 2007, a Christian teacher in a predominantly Muslim secondary school in northeastern Gombe state, was killed by her students and her body burnt after they accused her of desecrating the Koran.

In 1996, a Muslim mob scaled the walls of Kano prison and killed a Christian, Gideon Akaluka who was accused of desecrating th Koran before displaying his severed head on a spike in a procession across the city.

Source: Agence France-Presse, Staff, May 13, 2022

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