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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 19:07 GMT
Hands-on sentence in Nigeria
Man with amputated right hand
The introduction of Sharia has been controversial
A young man in northern Nigeria is back in prison, but relieved, after being sentenced to nine months in jail and 30 lashes.

Last week, in a bid to stop his hand being amputated, Mohamed Ali told the Islamic court in Sokoto where he was charged with theft, that he had renounced his Muslim faith, was now a Christian and therefore could not be tried under Sharia law.

I take Islam as a great religion. I regret claiming to be a Christian

Mohamed Ali
In recent years, several northern Nigerian states have extended Sharia by incorporating its punishments into their penal codes, but Christians are not directly subject to Sharia laws.

But the young man stunned the court on Thursday when he admitted he had lied.

"I am a Muslim, my parents are Muslims. I did it under confusion and I regret it. I pray for forgiveness," he told the court.

Cheap thief

The judge said his sentence was not harsher because the value of the kitchen goods he stole was less than $8, or the price of a goat, which is the minimum prescribed for amputation.

Map of Nigeria's northern states

After the ruling Mohamed Ali told AFP news agency: "I feel happy about the courts's ruling. May God bless him (the judge). I take Islam as a great religion. I regret claiming to be a Christian."

There is unease among many Christians that the imposition of Islamic law in the northern states serves to enforce the political will of Muslim leaders over the substantial minority of non-Muslims living there.

Since the introduction of Sharia criminal punishments two years ago more than 3,000 people have been killed in Christian and Muslim clashes particularly in the north of the country.

Abubakar Umar in Sokoto
"His father threatened to disown him"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | Africa
Living on Nigeria's death row
05 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
The death of a Nigerian village
19 Oct 01 | Africa
Nigerian appeals Sharia sentence
15 Oct 01 | Africa
Analysis: Nigeria's Sharia split
14 Sep 01 | Africa
Nigerian sentenced to stoning
09 Sep 01 | Africa
Dozens killed in Nigeria violence
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