Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Farouq’s jail sentence ‘disgraceful’, UNICEF, Holocaust Museum tell Buhari

A Sharia panel in Nigeria’s Northwest finds the 13-year-old guilty of blasphemy and sentences him to 10 years’ imprisonment.

and • September 26, 2020
President Buhari -2
President Buhari (Photo Credit: Twitter)

A German group in charge of commemorating victims and preserving the remains of Nazi concentration and extermination policy has joined growing international condemnation against the blasphemy verdict passed on Omar Farouq, a 13-year-old boy in Sharia-compliant Kano.

A Sharia panel defied widespread outcry and sentenced Mr. Farouq to 10 years in prison on August 10. He was accused of blaspheming Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a friend.

Several local and international groups have been calling for the judgment to be rescinded to enable the boy resume his education.

Auschwitz Memorial in an emotional letter to President Buhari on Friday described the conviction as a “disgraceful sentence for humanity”.

Piotr Cywinski, the memorial’s director, urged Mr. Buhari to grant clemency to Mr. Farouq as he can not be treated as fully aware and responsible given his age. 

Mr. Cywinski stated that if Mr. Buhari is convinced that the child absolutely requires 120 months in jail, the organisation will make available 120 adult volunteers across the world, including himself, who would come to Nigeria and serve the sentence. 

“In total, the price of the child’s transgression will be the same, and we will all avoid the worst,” Mr. Cywinski said in the September 25 letter to Mr. Buhari.

The Auschwitz intervention came as UNICEF was pushing for the immediate release of Mr. Farouq.

The United Nations child rights office said the blasphemy charges against Mr. Farouq contradict the spirits of the convention on children’s rights at both the UN and the African Union. Nigeria is a signatory to both international policies.

Nigeria’s Northwest, where Sharia has been adopted since early 2000, has raised frequent controversies for capital punishments imposed on citizens for alleged blasphemous comments or actions.

In 2020, Amina Lawal earned worldwide mention after she was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Katsina, Mr. Buhari‘s home state. The conviction was later dismissed by a Sharia appeals court. 

In late April, Mubarak Bala, an atheist and leader of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested in Kano and transferred to Kaduna for alleged blasphemy. Although he has not been charged, he has yet to regain his freedom.

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