(Australia)The Sun-Herald, September 17, 2000

(Nigeria) Anger as teen is flogged for love
By Reuters

A PREGNANT teenage girl was sentenced on Friday to 180 strokes of the cane by a Muslim sharia court in northern Nigeria.

Human rights activists reacted angrily to the sentencing of 17-year- old Bariya Magazu following a trial that's likely to fuel controversy over the introduction of the strict sharia penal code in parts of northern Nigeria.

Roman Catholic bishops of Nigeria issued a statement calling on President Olusegun Obasanjo "to address the sharia issue with the seriousness and sense of urgency it deserves “.

The court in Zamfara State, the first of Nigeria’s regional governments to proclaim sharia law, tried Magazu on charges of having had pre-marital sex.

Multi-ethnic Nigeria has been sharply divided over sharia, since late last year when Zamfara embraced it.

Hundreds of people died in two bouts of Chrislian-Muslim bloodletting over plans to introduce it is neighbouring Kaduna State earlier this year. Non Muslims oppose sharia for its tough sanctions, such as stoning for adultery and amputation of hand, for theft.

Zamfara officials said the court in the State capital Gusau earlier lest week found Magazu several months pregnant and being looked after by her parent, guilty of having sex illegally.

"The court sentenced her to 180 strokes of the cane and she will be publicly flogged 40 days after she put, to bed [gives birth]" an official said.

Rights groups described the sentence as barbaric and a violation of the girl's human rights.

“It’s shocking and really very embarrassing. It is baffling why the Zamfara Government would go ahead to enforce sharia to the extent of having to give a small girl 180 strokes of the cane " said Samson Bako of the Constitutional Rights Project. Bako said a coalition of rights groups, would consider court action against the central government if it failed to stop the spread of sharia in the country. Despite opposition, Sharia appears popular in the predominantly Islamic north where some half a dozen States adopted it or are about to do so.

The bishops said in a statement their fear that non-Muslims would suffer under a sharia regime had been justified.

"The reality on the ground in States that have adopted sharia shows that non-Muslims are being negatively and unjustly affected," the statement said. In many cases, Christian bodies were denied land on which to build places of worship, it said.

While reaffirming their faith in a unified Nigeria, the bishops said they believed Nigeria's constitution needed to be reviewed to reassure people of all faiths. Reuters

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