A 13-year-old boy has been sentenced to 10 years “menial labour” in jail for blasphemy by a Nigerian court.
Omar Farouq used bad language and said the name of Allah during an argument with a school friend, the court heard.
Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State in northwest Nigeria.
A total of 12 out of Nigeria’s 36states have Islam as the majority religion. Since 1999, those states have operated Sharia courts alongside secular justice.
His lawyer, Kola Alapinni, said: “Blasphemy is not recognised by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria.”
Alapinni discovered Farouq’s case when he was representing singer Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to be hanged for blasphemy at the Kano Upper Sharia Court after writing a song about the Prophet Muhammad.
“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.
Farouq had been tried as an adult because he has attained puberty and has full responsibility under Sharia law.
Blasphemy is a serious offence under Islamic law and punishments can range from amputations to the death penalty.
Alapinni told reporters Farouq’s mother had fled to a nearby town after mobs surrounded her home following the boy’s arrest.
“Everyone here is scared to speak and living under fear of reprisal attacks,” he said.
Peter Hawkins, the Nigeria representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a statement about the case, which read: “UNICEF today expressed deep concern about the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to 10 years’ imprisonment with menial labour by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, in northern Nigeria.”
He continued: “The sentencing of this child to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.
“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.”
It added: “The sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991. It is also a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development.”