UNICEF condemns Nigerian teenager for ‘blasphemy’


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image CaptionIslamic courts have their own police force in Kano

UN children’s agency UNICEF has called on Nigerian authorities to urgently review the Islamic court’s decision to sentence a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison.

The boy was convicted in August of making uncomfortable remarks about God during an argument with a friend in North Kano State.

Kano is one of the 12 Nigerian states practicing Sharia legal system in line with the country’s secular laws.

Muslims form a majority in the north.

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UNICEF representative in the West African state, Peter Hawkins, said the 13-year sentence “negates all the basic underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, the Kano State has signed”.

On September 9, the boy’s lawyer, Kola Alapanini, said that he had filed an appeal against the verdict.

“It is a violation of the African Charter of Rights and Welfare of a Child. The Federal Republic is a violation of the Constitution of Nigeria,” he said.

He told the BBC that no date of appeal had been set for a court hearing.

How Sharia Courts of Nigeria Work

By Mansoor Abubakar, BBC News, Kano

The 12 states in the Muslim-majority north of Nigeria operate the Sharia system of justice, but in its courts only Muslims can be tried.

The Sharia system, which also has its own court of appeal, handles civil and criminal cases involving Muslims and its decisions can also be challenged in the Secular Courts of Nigeria and the Supreme Court.

Sharia judges, known as “alkali”, are learned in both Islamic and secular laws.

If a case involves a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim has the option to choose where they want the case to be tried. If the non-Muslim gives written consent then only the Sharia court can hear the case.

The sentences handed down by the courts include phalgings, amputations and capital punishment.

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