Release comes after relentless campaign by human rights organization
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 212-633-4150
(New York) – Amnesty International today welcomed the release of Nigerian prisoner Patrick Okoroafor, 31, who spent half his life in prison for armed robbery – a crime he says he did not commit, and was sentenced to death as a juvenile. His release comes after a relentless global campaign by Amnesty International.
Okoroafor was just 14 when he was arrested in 1995. He was sentenced to death two years later.
Amnesty International considered Okoroafor's trial to have been grossly unfair and repeatedly called for his immediate and unconditional release.
"After Amnesty began its call for my release from prison, and after reading some of the thousands of letters, cards and messages sent to me by Amnesty supporters, I began to hope that I would soon be free in the not too distant future," said Okoroafor, upon his release.
Okoroafor was featured regularly in Amnesty's global solidarity letter-writing campaigns and received more than 10,000 cards and letters. Local Amnesty chapters in Washington D.C. and Indianapolis consistently campaigned on his behalf.
Authorities in Nigeria's Imo State commuted Okoroafor's sentence to life in prison months after the original death sentence was imposed. In October 2001, a High Court judgment pronounced his death sentence to be unlawful, null and void, and changed his sentence to indefinite detention "during the pleasure of the governor."
In 2009, one year after Amnesty International launched its campaign to release Okoroafor,his sentence was reduced to ten years. The following year it was reduced again to two years. He was finally released on April 30.
"We're elated at Patrick Okoroafor's release," said Michael O’Reilly, Amnesty International's Individuals at Risk campaign director. "Patrick's case was a gross miscarriage of justice from start to finish. While he can never regain the 17 years he lost in prison, he is free now thanks in part to the persistent actions taken by Amnesty supporters around the world on his behalf."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.