Amnesty International’s campaign to free Patrick Okoroafor finally pays off

Patrick Okoroafor, 31, who was sentenced to death in Imo State at the age of 16 in 1997, has expressed his happiness at being released from prison and reunited with his family after such a very long time, following a global campaign by Amnesty International.

Okoroafor was 14 when he was arrested in 1995 and 16 when sentenced to death for armed robbery, a crime which he says he didn’t commit.

“Amnesty International considers Okoroafor’s trial to have been grossly unfair and has repeatedly called for his immediate and unconditional release,” the human rights group stated on Wednesday.

Okoroafor’s sentence was commuted 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”; another term for 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,” stated the organisation.

Patrick Okoroafor featured regularly in Amnesty’s global solidarity letter-writing campaign and has received more than 10,000 cards and letters. In writing a letter of gratitude in 2010, Patrick Okoroafor encouraged his supporters to not give up in their efforts of campaigning for him.

“After Amnesty began its call for my release from prison, and after reading some of the thousands of letters, card and messages sent to me by Amnesty supporters, I began to hope that I would soon be free in the not too distant future,” he said after his release.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher Lucy Freeman, also expressed happiness at the development and called for stronger efforts to free other prisoners denied a fair trial in the country.

“It is fantastic that Patrick Okoroafor is finally free,” she said. “Patrick was denied the right to a fair trial and was a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Unfortunately, Patrick Okoroafor was just one of many prisoners in Nigeria who did not have a fair trial. Human rights violations are prevalent in Nigeria’s justice system. Arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and unfair trials are features of many inmates’ experience.”

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