In Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, Judge Mojisola Dada sentenced Olalekand Hamid to death by hanging over Zoom video chat. The defendant was accused of killing his employer’s mother, reports "BBC.
The videoconference hearing lasted for three hours and was attended by Hamid’s lawyers and the attorney general. They were all in different locations, measures that had been taken as part of the fight against the coronavirus infection COVID-19. Judge Dada accessed the video chat from the courthouse in Lagos, while Hamid was in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison and his lawyers were in other parts of the country.
"The BBC notes that it was the first day of easing restrictions on movement in Lagos – many people were able to get out and get back to work, but this did not affect court hearings, which remain under a ban in the usual format.
Hamid did not plead guilty to the crime. "The sentence of this court is that you will be hanged by the neck until you are pronounced dead, and may God have mercy on your soul. This is a virtual judgment, " the broadcaster quoted Judge Dada as saying.
It is not yet known whether the defendant will appeal the verdict.
Under Nigerian law, death sentences must be approved by the governors of the states in which they are imposed before they can be carried out. However, in practice, the death penalty is not currently applied in Nigeria – courts continue to sentence defendants to it, but according to Amnesty International, the last time criminals were executed was in 2016, and there are now more than two thousand people on death row in total.
Human Rights Watch, in an interview with the BBC, sharply condemned such a verdict. Human rights activists said that virtual trials during a coronavirus pandemic are acceptable, but that justice is moving in the wrong direction by sentencing a person to death, especially through Zoom. Human Rights Watch representatives called the sentence "cruel and inhumane."
In Nigeria, about three thousand cases of COVID-19 infection have been reported so far, and about a hundred people have died.