Nigeria: child prisoner free after 17 years
A Nigerian 31-year old man who was sentenced to death as a juvenile has expressed his happiness at being released from prison and reunited with his family after such a long time, following a relentless global campaign by Amnesty International.
Patrick Okoroafor was just 14 when he was arrested in 1995 and 16 when sentenced to death for armed robbery, a crime he says he didn’t commit.
Amnesty International considers Patrick’s Okoroafor’s trial to have been grossly unfair and repeatedly called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Upon his release Patrick Okoroafor said:
“After Amnesty began its call for my release from prison, and after reading some of the thousands of letters, cards and messages sent to me by Amnesty supporters, I began to hope that I would soon be free in the not too distant future.”
Patrick featured regularly in Amnesty International’s annual Greetings Card Campaign and has received more than 10,000 cards and letters from supporters in the UK and across the world.
Authorities in Nigeria’s Imo State commuted Patrick Okoroafor’s sentence to life imprisonment months after the original death sentence was imposed. In October 2001, a High Court judgement pronounced the sentence of death on him to be unlawful, null and void and changed his sentence to detention “during the pleasure of the governor” – indefinite detention.
In 2009, one year after Amnesty International launched its campaign to release Patrick Okoroafor; his sentence was reduced to ten years. The following year it was reduced again to two years. He was finally released on 30 April 2012.
In countries around the world including Germany, New Zealand, Ivory Coast and the UK, thousands have taken action for Patrick.
Teenagers from across the UK have taken part in national days of solidarity for Patrick and sent him letters and cards of support. One
14-year-old Eleanor from Taunton told Amnesty:
“I am so pleased that Patrick has been able to walk free from prison and can now rebuild his life. It’s so inspiring to see the real impact which Amnesty’s campaigns can have. It’s fabulous news he has been released!”
15-year-old Lottie Rogers, who is a member of Amnesty’s Youth Advisory Group, said:
"I’m absolutely delighted to learn that Patrick has been released. I remember being so moved by his situation when we campaigned for him when I was 14, as I simply couldn’t imagine what it was like to be put in prison when just 14. Patrick has always denied committing this crime, so it's great that he now has the chance to walk out of prison and to make the most of his life.”
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“We’re delighted that Patrick has been released from prison. Patrick was robbed of his childhood and subjected to some of the worst experiences imaginable for any young person.
“Unfortunately, Patrick was just one of many prisoners in Nigeria who hasn’t had a fair trial. Arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and unfair trials features in many inmates’ experience.
“His release is long overdue and we’re glad that Patrick now has the chance to enjoy his freedom.”
Notes to the Editor
- Thousands of people in dozens of countries including France, Germany, Ivory Coast, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Togo and the UK have taken action for Patrick. Actions included letter and card writing, demonstrations and lobbies to Nigerian Embassies.
- To arrange an interview please contact Amnesty International media office