Auschwitz museum head offers to serve sentence of teen jailed for 10 years for blasphemy

In a letter to the president of Nigeria, where the 13-year-old is being held, Piotr Cywiński said he would take the teenager’s place, adding: “I cannot remain indifferent to this disgraceful sentence for humanity.” PAP/ Piotr Cywiński/Twitter

The director of the Auschwitz Museum has offered to serve the sentence of a 13-year-old Nigerian boy accused of blasphemy.

Teenager Omar Farouq was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in the state of Kano, after being accused of blasphemy during a fight with a classmate.

Kano in northern Nigeria where the boy is from practices traditional Islamic law to the letter meaning that blasphemy is punishable by imprisonment or even death.

The Auschwitz museum director told the Nigerian authorities that the boy “should not be subjected to the loss of the entirety of his youth, be deprived of opportunities, and stigmatized physically, emotionally, and educationally for the rest of his life.”Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

On August 10th, the Kano State Sharia Court passed sentenced on Farouq adding forced labour to the punishment.

Farouq’s case quickly gained international notoriety, with UNICEF strongly condemning the Nigerian authorities.   

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said: “The sentencing of this child - 13-year-old Omar Farouk - to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.

Omar Farouq, 13, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in the state of Kano, after being accused of blasphemy during a fight with a classmate.faceofmalawi.com

“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria - and by implication, Kano State - has signed on to.”

Now the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum, Piotr Cywiński, has written a letter to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, asking for the boy to be pardoned. 

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said that sentencing the teenager to “10 years in prison with manual labour is wrong.”unicef.org

Posting the letter of September 25th on Twitter, Cywiński said: “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.”

Kano in northern Nigeria where the boy is from, practices traditional Islamic law to the letter meaning that blasphemy is punishable by imprisonment or even death.Google maps

Cywiński suggested, that if a pardon is impossible, Nigerian authorities should allow volunteers from all over the world to serve the sentence instead - 120 months of imprisonment would translate to 120 adults spending one month in prison each. The director would be one of them.

Arguing Farouq’s case, Cywiński wrote: “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 stigmatized physically, emotionally, and educationally for the rest of his life.”

Posting the letter of September 25th on Twitter, Cywiński said that Omar cannot be held responsible.Auschwitz Museum/Twitter

If the president agrees to a pardon, the director promised to fund the boy's education. 

The Nigerian president’s office is yet to respond to the offer.