Nigerian Christian freed after false imprisonment for 'blasphemy'

A Nigerian Christian has been freed after being wrongly imprisoned by a Sharia court in northern Nigeria for 300 days.

Sani Kibili, 55, was sentenced to three years in prison in the town of Kano, after he was called an infidel and accused of blasphemy against Islam and it’s prophet by three Muslim men, according to Open Doors.

The father of six was imprisoned in October 2007 and only released after a number of legal battles.

A statement from Open Doors UK said: “Following his arrest Sani was taken to the Shariah court, and after a brief trial, the judge sentenced him to three years in prison without the right to appeal.”

The statement added that Kibili’s case had many irregularities and that his lawyer said from the beginning that his imprisonment was illegal.

“As a Christian, he was not supposed to be tried in a Shariah court without declaring himself willing to be given such a trial in the first place,” said Open Doors.

Lawyers found many discrepancies in the transcript copies of court proceedings, indicating a conspiracy, added the persecution watchdog. Kibili was freed on the grounds that there was a lack of evidence against him.

Kibili said that the letters of encouragement from Open Doors supporters helped secure his release, “I never thought that I would be out of prison by now, but God has used them [Open Doors] mightily to fight on my behalf.”

During his time in prison it was reported that Kibili faced considerable hostility from Muslim prisoners who heard about his alleged crimes. However, Kibili also had many opportunities to speak to them about his own faith.

He said, “God never makes a mistake. His work in our lives is perfect. I asked myself many times how God could allow this to happen to me. Why did all avenues to seek help fail woefully? I had endless questions, and the answers were not forthcoming. But then I started to believe that God wanted to teach me something, away from my home, in a place where He chose. He took me to school and I learned so much.”

Tension between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria have been high in recent years, especially in northern Nigeria where Muslims are in the majority. Last year hundreds of people were killed after Muslims attacked Christians in reaction to election results.

Nine Christians were also killed and eight churches were burned in 2007 after violence over cartoons of Muhammad.

In 2004, 700 people were killed during violence between Muslims and Christians. Open Doors estimates that 10,000 people have died in ethnic violence since 1999, while many others have been forced to flee their homes.