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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Auschwitz director offers to serve sentence of Nigerian teen jailed for blasphemy

In a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Auschwitz Memorial Director Dr Piotr Cywinski said he and 119 other volunteers from across the world were each willing to serve a month in prison.

By: Express Web Desk | Margao | Updated: September 26, 2020 11:32:47 am
Nigeria, Nigerian boy 10 year jail sentence, Auschwitz, Auschwitz director Nigerian boy, Indian ExpressAuschwitz Memorial Director Dr Piotr Cywinski (YouTube/@UNESCO)

In an appeal to the President of Nigeria, the director of the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland has asked to be jailed in place of a 13-year-old Nigerian boy who was given a 10-year sentence for blasphemy. In a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, Auschwitz Memorial Director Dr Piotr Cywinski said he and 119 other volunteers from across the world were each willing to serve a month in prison.

Cywinski also urged Buhari to pardon the boy, named Omar Farouq, who was convicted by a Sharia court in Kano State in northwest Nigeria for using foul language while talking about God during an argument with his friend.

In his letter, Cwinski said that as the director of a memorial built on what was once a Nazi camp where “children were imprisoned and murdered, I cannot remain indifferent to this disgraceful sentence to humanity”.

“However, if it turns out that the words of this child absolutely require 120 months of imprisonment, and even you are not able to change that, I suggest that in place of the child, 120 adult volunteers from all over the world, gathered by us — myself personally among them — should each serve a month in a Nigerian prison,” he added.

It is reportedly rare for the Auschwitz memorial to comment on cases that are not immediately connected to the Holocaust.

The teenage boy’s lawyer Kola Alapinni told CNN that he had filed an appeal on his behalf on September 7. Farouq’s punishment is in violation of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution, Alapinni said.

Neither Alapinni nor any other lawyer working on the case have been permitted by state authorities to meet with Farouq during the proceedings, CNN reported. Alapinni learnt about the boy’s case by chance while working on another case, involving a studio assistant who was sentenced to death for blasphemous comments about Prophet Mohammed.

The UN’s child rights agency UNICEF has also called on the Nigerian government to urgently review the Islamic court’s sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq.

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