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UPDATE 1-Nigerian appeals court throws out blasphemy convictions that caused outcry

GlobalJan 21, 2021 19:42
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* Nigeria operates Islamic and secular courts in northern
states
* Sharia convictions for blasphemy prompted global outcry
* Secular court acquitted boy sentenced to 10-year jail term
* Man sentenced to death over WhatsApp message faces retrial

(Adds comment by Kano state's justice commissioner)
By Hamza Ibrahim
KANO, Nigeria Jan 21 (Reuters) - A Nigerian court threw out
two blasphemy convictions on Thursday that had caused an
international outcry, freeing a teenager from a 10-year prison
sentence and ordering a new trial for a man sentenced to death.
The two had been convicted in August by a sharia court in
Nigeria's northern, mainly Muslim state of Kano. Teenager Omar
Farouq was accused of making blasphemous comments during an
argument, while Yahaya Aminu Sharif was accused of having shared
a blasphemous message on WhatsApp.
Appeal judges at the secular branch of the state's high
court ruled that Farouq should be acquitted because he was a
minor who had not had adequate legal representation. They said
he was 17 at the time of his sentencing and not 13 as stated in
previous hearings.
In the case of Sharif, the conviction was quashed and the
case sent back to the sharia court.
"Their lives will never be the same again," said Kola
Alapinni, a defence lawyer representing both defendants. He said
it would not be safe for Farouq to remain in Kano, while Sharif
was likely to remain in custody until his retrial was heard.
Protesters in Kano destroyed Sharif's home last year,
forcing his family to flee. Farouq's parents disassociated
themselves from him due to the shame caused by the case,
according to Alapinni, who said the boy's uncle was the only
relative to have been in regular contact with the legal team.

SHARIA 'HERE TO STAY'
The convictions were condemned last year by rights groups
and the United Nations. The head of Poland's Auschwitz Memorial
had said he and others would volunteer to each serve a month of
Farouq's prison sentence.
Nigeria is roughly evenly split between a predominantly
Muslim north and mainly Christian south. Sharia, Islamic
religious law, is applied in 12 of Nigeria's 36 states.
The convictions sparked a debate about sharia, which the
defendants' lawyers argued was incompatible with Nigeria's
secular constitution. Lawan Musa Abdullahi, Kano state's justice commissioner,
said that as part of its decision-making, the court had ruled
that "the sharia penal code here in Kano state is here to stay".
The debate about the role of sharia continued on Kano's
streets on Thursday.
"It concerns Islamic law and not any other law," said
businessman Muhammad Salihu, arguing that secular courts should
not hear appeals against sharia convictions.

UPDATE 1-Nigerian appeals court throws out blasphemy convictions that caused outcry
 

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