Dr Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Warsaw, Poland, and 119 other volunteers across the world have offered to be jailed in exchange for the release of a 13-year-old boy, Omar Farouq, imprisoned for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed in Kano State, Nigeria.
The offer was made in an appeal letter the 48-year-old historian and ecumenist wrote to the President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he and the 119 others are ready to serve a month each in a Nigerian prison on behalf of Omar Farouq.
A Sharia court in Kano State had in August sentenced the boy to 120 months in jail for blasphemy during a conversation with his friend.
Farouq’s conviction has be condemned by many Nigerians and human rights organisations.
In his letter dated September 25, 2020, Cywiński urged Buhari to pardon Farouq as he could not be treated as fully aware and responsible for his utterances, due to his age.
He offered to sponsor Farouq’s education should the president pardon him.
Cywiński wrote, “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.
“I wish to request the pardon of this 13-year-old boy. 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 stigmatised physically, emotionally, and educationally for the rest of his life. I am convinced that the authority you possess can still undo this sentence.
“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. In total, the price for the child’s transgression will be the same, and we will all avoid the worst.
“If you agree to grant clemency, or to the above proposal in lieu of punishment, I will make an attempt to provide financial help for the boy’s proper education. This way, instead of a destroyed young man, Nigeria will gain an aware and educated young citizen.
“You will undoubtedly agree with the statement that human rights begin with the rights of the child.”