Insults were exchanged in the heat of the moment, he admits, but Farouq, a teenager, did not consider exchanging until he was called to the police station and charged with blasphemy against God.
When the manner of his arrest became known, an angry mob came down on Farouq’s family home and forced his mother to flee to a neighboring village, his lawyer said.
Farouq, then 16, was convicted by a Sharia court in Kano, Northern Nigeria, and sentenced to 10 years in prison with forced labor.
“I am happy, I am in a happy mood. And I am grateful to everyone who, by the grace of Allah, have helped and supported this result,” 17-year-old Farouq told CNN in his first interview after its publication.
Alappini was instrumental in Farouq’s release from prison.
His Religious Freedom Foundation discovered and became embroiled in Farouq’s case while working on an appeal for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Kano Upper Sharia Court.
“We found that they were convicted of blasphemy by the same judge in the same court on the same day, and we found that no one was talking about Omar. So we had to act quickly to appeal him,” he said.
“Blasphemy is not recognized by Nigerian law. It is contrary to the Nigerian constitution.”
The Kano Supreme Court stated that Farouq’s conviction as a minor “was erroneous and … is hereby overturned and the defendant is hereby released and acquitted”.
An “unjust” punishment
Farouq says he is saddened that the Sharia court was “unjust” to him.
Sharia court officials have not commented on Farouq’s case and efforts to reach her have been unsuccessful. CNN also contacted the Kano state government for comment, but has not yet received a response.
In total, Farouq spent more than five months without access to family or lawyers.
His family said they had not been given the details of his case and did not even know when his trial took place.
“You weren’t fair to us,” his uncle Umar Aliyu told CNN. “When they took this boy to court, they didn’t tell us which court they took him to … and they refused to give us the date for the verdict. They kept chasing us away. I went to Hisbah pleadingly – Office with the interrogator, but he told me to leave his office. I left hurt and close to tears, extremely sad. ”
The family also learned from media reports that Farouq had been convicted and sentenced, Aliyu said.
Aliyu recalls that whenever he thought of his nephew, who was incarcerated without any contact with his family, he was “enveloped in sadness”.
“Everyone … was very worried, we were really sad. We just had to console ourselves and advise some to consider it something Allah ordained … to tell them to be patient. This was one emotional relief.
“For the time he was in jail every time I thought of him, I was worried. Every time I thought of him, I was surrounded by sadness.”
“His life is in danger”
After Farouq is freed, he is determined to finish his education and has ambitions to enter politics to fight the kind of injustice he has faced.
“I pray Allah will bless me to become Governor or President to reform Sharia law and end injustice against my fellow citizens and myself as in some judicial proceedings the crime does not warrant harsh judgment. This is a deprivation of your rights , Oppression and abuse, “he said.
Although his conviction has been overturned, Farouq’s life remains in danger from some fanatics who, according to his lawyer, regard his release as an affront.
Alappini told CNN how scared Farouq was when he met him outside the prison when he was released.
“He himself knows he is in danger because when we tried to get him out of prison … you could see the fear on his face, he didn’t even want to follow us … everyone had told him when he gets off the prison walls he is killed, “said Alappini.
“We have to arrange a safe passage for him now. His life in Kano is in danger – it will never be the same,” he said.