The appellate division of Kano State High Court on Thursday acquitted 13-year-old Omar Farouk of blasphemy and quashed the 10 years imprisonment passed on him by the state’s Upper Sharia Court on August 10, 2020.
The court also quashed the conviction but ordered a retrial of a 22-year-old musician, Yahaya Shariff-Aminu, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy by the Upper Sharia Court on the same day it convicted Farouk.
Their lawyer, Kola Alapinni, disclosed the developments to PREMIUM TIMES in text messages on Thursday.
Mr Alapinni said the High Court panel led by the Chief Judge of Kano State, Nuraddeen Umar, ruled that Mr Shariff-Aminu’s earlier trial was fraught with procedural irregularities warranting a retrial.
He stated, “On Yahaya Aminu Sharif, the court quashed the conviction.
“But the case has been remitted back to the sharia court for a retrial due to procedural irregularities.”
He, however, stated concerning Farouq, who got a total acquittal , that the High Court ruled that the minor was wrongly convicted.
Mr Alapinni said the court set aside the sentence passed on the boy because the minor had no legal representation during the trial.
He stated, “Omar Farouq Bashir is free! Sentence set aside for lack of legal representation.
“The Sharia court judgment is a nullity. The minor was wrongfully convicted!”
The lawyer, however, stated that “the court holds that the Sharia Penal system is legal”, adding that he might appeal against that aspect of judgment.
He said he might appeal against that aspect of the judgment.
Court order to be served on prison authorities
Asked when his clients would be released from detention, Mr Alapinni, said, “We are working on it. We will try to get the court order as soon as possible to serve on the prison tomorrow (Friday).”
The Upper Sharia Court had on August 10 sentenced Farouk, a resident of Sharada quarters of Kano metropolis, to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour for “making derogatory statements concerning the Almighty Allah in a public argument.”
His conviction and sentence was widely condemned particularly because he was a minor and had no legal representation at the trial.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had through its Country Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said Farouk’s sentencing with menial job, was wrong and negated “all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed to.”
The body called on the Nigerian government and the Kano State Government to “urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.”
On his part, Mr Sharif-Aminu, a resident of Sharifai in Kano metropolis, was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy against the prophet of Islam in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
Protesters had , after the incident, burnt down the singer’s family home.
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