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Judicial CP - March 2004

Corpun file 13000, South Africa, 24 March 2004

'Sex offender won't be stoned'

Boys convicted, caned

From AFP

Kano -- A Nigerian Islamic court has overthrown the conviction of a 23-year-old man who had been sentenced to be stoned to death for molesting three young boys, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Jibrin Babaji was convicted of sodomy on September 23 last year after confessing to having paid two ten-year-olds and a 13-year-old boy to have sex with him in exchange for 10 naira (less than R1) each.

But on Monday the Upper Sharia Court in Bauchi State cleared Babaji on appeal, after ruling that a lower court had not applied Sharia's strict rules of evidence, in particular the need for four witnesses to the act.

"The judge, Dahiru Ningi, ruled that the lower court judge was hasty in passing judgement against Babaji," Bauchi State's spokesperson Mohammed Abdullahi told reporters by telephone from the largely-Muslim northern state.

"He had failed to follow due judicial process as provided in the Sharia penal code, which involved the testimony of four witnesses," he said.

The young boys were also convicted of sodomy in last year's case, and were immediately administered six strokes from a cane.

Abdullahi said the appeal court had ordered the lower court judge, Sani Darazo, to tender an "unreserved apology and 3 000 naira (about R140) compensation to the kids for the embarrassment and psychological torment they were subjected to through wrongful conviction for sodomy."

Since 1999 a dozen Northern Nigerian states have controversially begun to reintroduce Islamic Sharia law into their penal codes, angering the region's Christian minority and both Nigerian and international rights groups.

Sharia's prescribed punishment for sex crimes such as sodomy, adultery and rape - death through stoning - has proved the most controversial aspect of the law, and so far no such sentence has been carried out.

On Wednesday a young couple of former lovers are due to appear before a court in the central city of Minna to hear the result of their appeal against an adultery conviction. They are expected to be cleared.

Edited by Tricia Shannon

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