Patrick Okoroafor was 14 years old when he was arrested in Imo state, Nigeria, in 1995, and charged with robbery and kidnapping, a crime he has always said he did not commit. The police later charged him and six others with robbery.
He says he was tortured in police custody and had no lawyer present during his interrogation. According to Okoroafor, he was beaten and the police used pliers to pull out his teeth.
His brother, Henry, told Amnesty: “Patrick only went to the police station because the police wanted to inspect a car our mother had bought from one of the other suspects. That is when they arrested him.”
Okoroafor was tried by a military tribunal, which the African Commission, an organisation that safeguards human rights in the continent, has found to violate fair trial rules. On 30 May 1997, at the age of 16, he was sentenced to death along with his six co-defendants.
He and another teenager, Chidiebere Onuoha, who was 15 when he was arrested, petitioned the state military administrator for clemency on grounds of age. On 18 July 1997, the military administrator confirmed the death sentences of the six co-defendants but commuted Okoroafor’s sentence to life imprisonment. Less than two weeks later, the other six young men were publicly shot to death.
Okoroafor’s sentence was then amended to “indefinite detention”. This goes against international human rights standards. After an international campaign, his sentence was reduced to 10 years in 2009 and then to two years in December 2010. Neither commutation took into account the 15 years he had already spent in prison.
Patrick Okoroafor‘s long stay in prison has affected his health and he now suffers from severe asthma. To send a letter to the governor of Imo state calling for Okoroafor’s immediate release, visit the Amnesty UK website.
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Category: Other States News