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African Development: Auschwitz director offers to serve Nigerian teen's sharia sentence

Posted by Abeiku Ebo on

African Development: Auschwitz director offers to serve Nigerian teen's sharia sentence

Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, has written to the president of Nigeria requesting the pardon of a 13-year-old boy sentenced to 10 years in prison for blasphemy, Cywinski has tweeted.

"As the director of the Auschwitz Memorial, that commemorates the victims and preserves the remains of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where children were imprisoned and murdered, I cannot remain indifferent to this disgraceful sentence for humanity," Cywinski wrote in the letter dated September 25.

A copy of the letter to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the matter of 13-year-old Omar Farouk was posted on the Auschwitz museum's Twitter account. In it, the museum director declared he was willing to serve part of the boy's sentence. "(...) 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 wrote.

Cywinski wrote that the boy "Should not be subjected to the loss of the entirety of his youth, be deprived of opportunities, and stigmatized physically, emotionally, and educationally for the rest of his life," arguing that Farouk was too young to be held responsible for his words.

The 13-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison with forced hard labour because during a fight with a classmate at school he used words considered blasphemy in reference to Allah. In 12 Nigerian states, mostly in the north of the country where sharia law is in force, blasphemy can be punished with the death sentence, despite the Nigerian government declaring a withdrawal from the punishment four years ago.

Farouk's case has drawn protests globally. On September 16, UNICEF's representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, filed an official protest with the country's president, pointing out that Nigeria was a signatory to chid rights treaties that were breached by the sentence. 

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