Child rights agency UNICEF on Wednesday called for the Nigerian government to “urgently review the case” of a 13-year-old boy sentenced to ten years in prison for blasphemy last month in majority Muslim Kano State, which practices sharia, the Islamic law.
The Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, convicted Omar Farouq of blasphemy on August 10 for using “foul language toward Allah in an argument with a friend” and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment with menial labor. The court tried Farouq as an adult because “he has attained puberty and has full responsibility under Islamic law,” according to CNN.
“The sentencing of this child … is wrong,” UNICEF Representative in Nigeria Peter Hawkins said in a press statement. “It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.” UNICEF urged the Nigerian government to review the teenager’s case “with a view to reversing the sentence.”
The same sharia (Islamic law) court that sentenced Farouq also sentenced 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif to death by hanging last month for blasphemy. A musician, Yahaya was found guilty of insulting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, in a song he circulated via the WhatsApp messaging app in March.
“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,” Farouq’s lawyer, Kola Alapinni, told CNN.
“Blasphemy is not recognized by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” Alapinni explained.
Angry mobs descended on Farouq’s family home in Kano city after news of his arrest for blasphemy spread throughout the local community. The mobs forced Farouq’s mother to flee to a neighboring town, according to Alapinni.
“Everyone here is scared to speak and living under fear of reprisal attacks,” he said.