Thursday, September 18, 2008

Man with 86 Wives Detained

A Nigerian Muslim court Monday detained an 84-year-old Islamic preacher with 86 wives after he failed to heed a call by local leaders to divorce all but four of them. The authorities in central Niger state charged Mohammed Bello with "insulting religious creed" and "unlawful marriages" after local chiefs and Muslim leaders gave him until September 7 to comply with Islamic sharia law, which allows a man to have no more than four wives at a time. The preacher, who lives with his wives and some 170 children in the town of Bida, pleaded not guilty to the charges at an Upper Sharia Court in the state capital Minna. Judge Abdul Imam, who rejected Bello's bail application and ordered that he be remanded in prison to allow police complete their investigation, adjourned the case to October 6. Bello's detention came barely a week after he was granted temporary reprieve by a civil court in the Nigerian capital Abuja where he filed a petition against local chiefs and Muslim leaders who threatened to banish him if he failed to divorce 82 of his wives. The preacher said the threats violated his right to life and personal liberty. The court gave Bello temporary protection from banishment, but the Niger State Sharia Commission decided on Monday to charge him at an Islamic court. Bello had received a number of death threats after the Nigerian media began reporting on his unusual marital situation, his spokesman said. Some newspapers said earlier in September that Bello had agreed at a meeting with local officials to divorce all but four of his wives and had asked for time to return them to their families. But his spokesman later denied the reports and said the preacher intended to marry more wives instead. His case has stirred controversy in Africa's most populous nation of 140 million people, roughly half of whom are Muslim. Many Muslim scholars say Islam allows men to have up to four wives at any given time who must be treated equally. (Reuters via Yahoo/ AFP File Photo via MSN)

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