Auschwitz Memorial Chief: Let Me Serve Time for Boy, 13

Nigeria's Omar Farouq has been sentenced to 10 years for blasphemy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2020 11:55 AM CDT
Auschwitz Memorial Chief: Let Me Serve Time for Boy, 13
Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, is pictured in 2008.   (Wikimedia/Pawel Sawicki)

As director of the Auschwitz Memorial, Piotr Cywinski has a solid grasp of the horrors of detention. He's ready to dive in anyway. Cywinski has sent a letter to Nigeria's president requesting the pardon of a 13-year-old boy sentenced by a Sharia court to 10 years in prison for blasphemy, or alternatively, that 120 volunteers—Cywinski among them—each serve one month in his place, per Deutsche Welle. Omar Farouq was convicted last month in Kano state, one of 12 Nigerian states where Sharia law is practiced alongside secular law, after speaking ill of Allah during an argument with a friend, per CNN. Had he been an adult, he would've been sentenced to death, lawyer Kola Alapinni tells the Telegraph. Indeed, the same judge sentenced another man to death for blasphemy; that man was convicted on the same day as Omar. The boy's mother had already fled her home due to angry mobs.

Alapinni, who hasn't been able to see the boy, has filed an appeal on his behalf. He says the sentence violates the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and Nigeria's constitution. "We are a multi-religious state with freedom of thought, expression, and religion enshrined in the constitution," he tells the Telegraph. "This should not be happening." Peter Hawkins, UNICEF's representative in Nigeria, is also calling for the sentence to be reversed, noting it "negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria—and by implication, Kano state—has signed on to," per CNN. Meanwhile, Cywinski is awaiting a response from President Muhammadu Buhari, who visited Auschwitz in 2018. "There are some times we have to stop our own silence and try to do something," he tells the Telegraph, adding he has kids of Omar's age. (More Sharia law stories.)

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