One year on, still imprisoned for defending himself



It is exactly a year since Olaola Sunkami Femi, a 26-year-old Nigerian student at the Luhansk National University has been held in a Ukrainian SIZO or remand prison.  As reported, he is charged with trying to kill some inebriated young people who attacked him in the entrance to his apartment block on 5 November 2011. Both he and the young man he was with – Oniola Sudadi -  say that they were set upon by five young people who shouted racist insults and pulled them to the ground, beating them.  Oriola lost consciousness, but Olaola managed to get up and began defending himself with a broken bottle.  In defending himself he lashed out with the bottle, hitting his assailants.  Three young men – V. Haman, D. Lemenchuk and A. Loboda received cuts to the arms, neck and head, while Iryna Pashkova who also took part in the incident was hit on the face and head.

Olaola Sunkami Femi was arrested 12 hours later and has been in detention ever since.

He has been charged with attempted murder “out of hooligan motives”.  The investigators claim that he deliberately, “out of overt disrespect for society” carried out a previously planned attack with a weapon previously prepared – the broken glass bottle.

No more comprehensible motive has been offered.

Despite the fact that the injuries sustained by the young men were deemed to be light bodily injuries, and their nature does not suggest an attack, the charge if of having attempted to murder them and therefore could, if he is convicted, carry a life sentence.

There is no evidence but the statements by the young people. The investigators have not sought out the taxi driver who brought the Nigerian students to their home and who, they say, saw the beginning of the incident. Nor have they included in the file material the forensic report which found that the three young men were drunk. During the course of the investigation the number of “victims” mysteriously fell from 6 to 4.

Unexpectedly for the defence, a “not identified firearm” has appeared.  This, according to the “victims” was supposedly used to take a short at Haman who was lying on the ground after receiving his injuries – before he left the scene. No gunshot marks on his clothes were found.

The testimony of both Oniola Sudadi and the accused about racist insults and threats have been ignored.

The fact that the mother of one of the supposed victims works in the police station which carried out the criminal investigation could have significantly influenced the course of this investigation.

The investigation was carried out with a number of flagrant infringements. An interpreter was needed, and not provided, and the procedural documents were also not translated into a language he could understand.

He was only able to read the documents translated into English after they were passed to the court.

The beginning of the hearings was postponed several times because the Prosecutor could not provide the accused with an interpreter.  They began only in May, but the Prosecutor immediately applied for the case to be examined by a panel of judges, this again leading to a delay.  The court hearings have, however, recently speeded up and it is therefore imperative that voices are heard in defence of this young man.

Civic activists are calling on both the Ukrainian human rights community and representatives of other countries in Ukraine to follow this case and help ensure that a terrible miscarriage of justice does not take place.

More information in English and ways for showing support INCLUDING A PETITION (which doesn’t want to open at this moment) can be found here


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