Nigeria: 13-year-old sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘blasphemous’ comments

Omar Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State in northwest Nigeria on August 10. Kano is among the 12 Nigerian states that practice the Sharia law along with the African nation’s secular laws, a report by the BBC stated.

The United Nations’ child rights agency UNICEF has called on the Nigerian government to urgently review an Islamic court’s sentencing of a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in jail for using foul language while talking about Allah during an argument with his friend, the BBC reported.

Omar Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State in northwest Nigeria on August 10. Kano is among the 12 Nigerian states that practice the Sharia law along with the African nation’s secular laws, the BBC report stated.

According to Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, sentencing the 13-year-old to 10 years in prison “negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria — and by implication, Kano state — has signed on to.”

The teenage boy’s lawyer Kola Alapinni told CNN that he had filed an appeal on his behalf on September 7. Farouq’s punishment is in violation of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution, Alapinni said.

Neither Alapinni nor any other lawyer working on the case have been permitted by state authorities to meet with Farouq during the proceedings, CNN reported. Alapinni learnt about the boy’s case by chance while working on another case, involving a studio assistant who was sentenced to death for blasphemous comments against Prophet Mohammed.

“We found out they were convicted on the same day, by the same judge, in the same court, for blasphemy, and we found out no one was talking about Omar, so we had to move quickly to file an appeal for him,” Alapinni said in an interview with CNN. “Blasphemy is not recognised by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” he explained.

Hawkins called for the enactment of the Kano State Protection Bill “so as to ensure that all children under 18, including Omar Farouq, are protected, and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards”.

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