The director of Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum Piotr Cywinski has asked Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon a 13-year-old boy Omar Farouq sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for blasphemy.
“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,” Cywiński said in a letter to Buhari on Friday.
“Regardless of what he said, he cannot be treated as fully aware and responsible, given his age. He 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,” he added.
Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State after he was accused of using foul language toward Allah in an argument with a friend.
The state claimed Farouq was arraigned as an adult because he has attained puberty and has full responsibility under Islamic law. The same court sentenced Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a studio assistant, to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed on August 10.
If Buhari refuses to intervene and Farouq’s sentence is not commuted, Cywiński offered to take the place of the 13-year-old in prison, along with 190 other adult volunteers.
“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,” wrote the director.
He also offered to personally fund Farouq’s education if he is pardoned, resulting in “an aware and educated young citizen” rather than a “destroyed young man.”
Farouq’s punishment is in violation of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution, said his counsel Kola Alapinni, who told reporters they filed an appeal on his behalf on September 7.
Alapinni said he or other lawyers working on the case have not been granted access to Farouq by authorities in Kano State.
He said he found out about Farouq’s case by chance when working on the case of Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy at the Kano Upper Sharia Court.
“We found out they were convicted on the same day, by the same judge, in the same court, for blasphemy and we found out no one was talking about Omar, so we had to move quickly to file an appeal for him,” he told reporters.
“Blasphemy is not recognized by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” he added.
United Nations Children’s Fund has also condemned the sentencing of the teenager.