Olaolu Femi finally released from custody


After a major campaign by some human rights groups, Olaolu Femi has been released from SIZO [detention centre] with the Foundation for Regional Initiatives formally acting as guarantor.  Other organizations had also made such applications, but the court acceded to the one from FRI, which had been endorsed by the Human Rights Ombudsperson. The battle is by no means over, but this is still a major achievement.

Nigerian student Olaolu Femi was returning to his flat in Luhansk on 5 November 2011 with a friend.  The two young men were set upon by 5 people who not only hurled racist abuse, but also knocked them to the ground.

Olaolu Femi managed to get to his feet and grabbed a broken bottle in an attempt to defend himself. He lashed out and hit 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.  Olaolu Sunkami Femi was arrested 12 hours later and until Wednesday had been in detention ever since, charged with attempted murder.

There have been shocking irregularities in this case from the beginning.  Olaolu Femi has consistently stated that he was interrogated without a professional interpreter present, that he did not understand the people who were introduced to him as the interpreters, and that he doubts that his explanations were conveyed accurately.

All the documentation was in Russian which Olaolu does not know well.  The Prosecutor claims that translations were provided verbally.  The name of the translator is not indicated everywhere, and at a certain point Olaolu simply refused to sign the documents. 

The situation with legal defence was no better at the beginning with a formal defence lawyer present at the first interrogation and other investigative activities. Even after the current lawyers were taken on, they were not informed of some of the investigative activities.

Other irregularities have included changes in the number of supposed victims in the case, disregard for forensic medical evidence which found that Olaolu Femi was not, as claimed, inebriated, but that the five young people were.

There was also a highly questionable “witness” who appeared over a year after the event and Olaolu’s arrest (see for more details).   

A petition in support of Olaolu Femi can be signed here.  While it’s excellent that Olaolu Femi has been released from detention, the trial is continuing and there is still a long way to go. Public attention is vital.

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