Nigeria court charges two students over 'blasphemy' death

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KANO, Nigeria, May 16 (Reuters) - Two students were on Monday charged in court with conspiracy and inciting public disturbance after a college student was beaten and burned by fellow students who accused her of blasphemy in the northwestern state of Sokoto last week.

The death of Deborah Samuel, a second year college student, has raised questions about the place of Islamic sharia law in a secular democracy like Nigeria, which is divided between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south. read more

The charges against Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunchi, fellow students, carries a minimum two-year jail term upon conviction, their lead lawyer Mansur Said told Reuters. The accused entered a plea of not guilty.

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The choice of the charges will likely anger those who had hoped authorities would take a harder line against what they see as religious intolerance to avoid similar incidences in future.

The two men were denied bail by the magistrates court and will return for a second hearing on Wednesday.

Nigeria's largest grouping of Christian churches has called for demonstrations against Samuel's death at church premises across the country on Sunday.

Samuel was accused by other students of posting blasphemous statements about the Prophet Mohammad in a WhatsApp group.

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Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Grant McCool

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