Kano: 13-year-old jailed for blasphemy appeals judgement

Farouq Omar, a 13-year-old boy sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for blasphemy, has appealed the judgment that convicted him at the Kano State High Court.

Omar was convicted on August 10 by Aliyu Kanu, the same judge, who sentenced a musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.

Baba-Jibo Ibrahim, spokesperson for Kano Region Justice Ministry, said the teenager was sentenced to 10 years in prison for making derogatory statements towards Allah.

In a suit filed at the Kano State High Court on Monday, Kola Alapini, Omar’s counsel, on behalf of the Foundation for Religious Freedom, asked the court to set the judgment aside.

The respondents in the appeal included the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, Commissioner of Police and the Attorney-General of the state.

The FRF described Farouq’s incarceration as a violation of the African Charter of the Rights And Welfare of a Child and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria “because he is minor in the eyes of the Law”.

“The Appellant the conviction and sentencing by the Upper Sharia Court of Kano State pursuant to the kano State Penal Code Law 2000 were unconstitutional, null void, having grossly violated and conflicted with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and having violated the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respectively.”

The rights group also argued that the offence of blasphemy is no longer an offence in Nigerian constitution.

“The constitutional principle of separation between government and religion enshrined at Sections 10 and 38 of the constitution prohibit government from adopting religion or making laws restricting religious freedom and also prohibits government from making laws to advance or promote any religious interest.

“The State was quick to charge the accused for blasphemy but failed, neglected and refused to provide him legal representation despite the existing framework for legal aid in Kano State.

“The Penal Sharia Code Law 2000 of Kano state or any Penal Sharia Code Law in Nigeria has no constitutional foundation since it is a law with the sole aim of advancing and placating Islamic religious interests and same is apparently opened to political and class manipulations of citizens be they Muslims or non-Muslims.”

Several activists and rights groups have demanded the reversal of the judgements against the two individuals.

“This is a travesty of justice. There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial; and the framing of the charges against him based on his music. Furthermore, the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life. Yahaya Sharif-Aminu must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Amnesty International Nigeria country director, Osai Ojigho, said in a press statement.

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