Five Muslim men accused of murdering a pastor's elderly wife because she allegedly blasphemed the prophet Muhammad have been released, sparking outrage among the local Christian community.
According to World Watch Monitor, Bridget Agbahime, 74, wife of Deeper Life Bible Church pastor Mike Agbahime, was lynched by an angry mob in Kano, the largest city in mainly-Muslim northern Nigeria, after she was accused of blasphemy - a crime punishable by death under Sharia law. However, the charge was contested by various sources, who described Bridget as a "quiet, decent" elderly woman who traded in plastic wares.
"All this woman did was ask a young man, who decided to do his ablutions [ritual Islamic cleansing] in front of Bridget's shop, to move away. He began to scream that she had blasphemed against the prophet. This is all the crowd needed to hear to carry out this act," sources who requested anonymity told World Watch Monitor.
Her husband was also attacked by the mob, but prompt police intervention helped to save his life, local sources said.
Following her murder, five suspects - Zubairu Abubakar, Musa Abdullahi, Dauda Ahmed, Abdullahi Abubakar and Abdulmumeen Mustafa, were charged with a four-count charge of allegedly inciting disturbance, culpable homicide, joint act and mischief.
In July, a Kano Magistrates' Court denied bail to the suspects and had ordered that they be remanded in prison custody; however, last week, the Magistrate, Muhammad Jibril, discharged the suspects and terminated the case as advised by the attorney-general of Kano State.
"We received the case diary from the police on June 8 and having gone through the case diary, the attorney-general of the state evaluated the facts in accordance with sections 130 and 150 of the criminal procedure code," the directive stated.
"The legal advice presented to the court, dated June 24, states that there is no case to answer as the suspects are all innocent, and orders the court to discharge all the suspects," it continued.
The ruling has been condemned by a number of Nigerians, including Secretary General of Northern Christian Association of Nigeria, Mr. Danladi Yerima, who called it a "callous, reckless, a miscarriage of justice and an invitation to violence."
"We are disturbed that this action will further serve as an evil lubricant to the perpetual and unrepentant murderers," he said in a statement.
Dr. Joseph Ajujungwa, the CAN secretary in Enugu State, expressed his disappointment regarding the decision and called on the Federal Government and the South-East governors to reverse the decision and ensure justice for the Agbahime family.
"An innocent woman was murdered in cold blood and we had expected that at least to show its disapproval of any form of mindless killing, the state government would prosecute this matter judiciously but we have been totally disappointed," he said.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. The country is number 12 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.
Morning Star News notes that Kano state adopted Sharia law in 2000, and in 2012, a rumor that a Christian man had "blasphemed" against Islam, sparked a riot and looting in the town of Bichi, in which four people were killed. A short time earlier, a mob on the rampage in Gwaram, Jigawa State, burnt a police outpost, injuring around 12 people, over an alleged blasphemous statement against Muhammad made by a "non-Muslim" resident of the town.