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Nigeria: 13 year old sentenced to ten years for blasphemy released


Omar Farouq, who was sentenced to ten years in prison in August 2020 at the age of just 13 on charges of blasphemy has been released. Numerous human rights organisations and individuals protested leading to his freedom. 

Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of the northern Nigerian state of Kano overturned the Sharia court’s first judgement on the grounds that Farouq had no legal counsel.

Omar Farouq Bashir allegedly made derogatory comments about Allah in an argument with a friend. Since there are two local laws – one secular and one religious – the statements did not remain without consequences, but ended up in a Sharia court, which treated the 13-year-old boy like an adult and sentenced him to ten years in prison, we wrote about it here>>>.

In addition to this he was required to do some ‘irrelevant work’ that is common of adults sentences.

Protests followed around the world, including by the United Nations Children’s Fund , UNICEF , which emphasised that Farouq’s treatment clearly violates the children’s rights to which Nigeria has committed, and the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) , the Nigerian Paediatric Association, who wants to see such young people protected as well and confirmed that teenagers cannot always assess the consequences of their statements.

Why was the ruling of the 13 year old sentenced to prison overturned?

HPD.DE reported that Last Thursday the secular supreme court in Kano overturned the verdict. The reason given for the decision was that Omar Farouq had no legal support in the first hearing before the religious court.

This Monday the boy was released after five months in detention and without contact to family or legal assistance.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International welcomes the release and stresses that the boy should not have been imprisoned. A point that the Nigerian Humanist Society also affirms. For them, anti-blasphemy legislation is incompatible with Nigeria’s constitution.

When he was imprisoned, Milen Kidane, the chief of child protection at UNICEF Nigeria, said that he case has received global condemnation, and that she is certain that it’s something that the U.N. committee on the rights of the child may even take up and this has come to fruition.