Olaolu Femi released from SIZO after a year and a half’s detention on an absurd charge


Nigerian student Olaolu Sunkanmi Femi was on Wednesday, 17 April released from custody in the courtroom after 18 months in detention.

As reported, the Luhansk Prosecutor has charged Femi with an attack and attempted murder of a group of young people.  Human rights activists believe that the charges are nonsensical. The court took into account the arguments from a group of civic organizations and the Human Rights Ombudsperson and changed the restraint measure from remand in SIZO to release on the security of the Ukrainian youth NGO Foundation for Regional Initiatives.

Consideration of applications to change the restraint measure had continued from March last year. The Leninsky Court in Luhansk needed four court hearings, with four different interpreters. Femi’s lawyers Ludmila Havrysh and Andriy Minayev had applied for their client to be released on a signed undertaking not to leave the city and 10 civic organizations in Ukraine and Russia had asked for Femi to be released with them as guarantors. The panel of judges considered three of the applications so far received and allowed one of them – from the Foundation for Regional Initiatives, supported by the Ombudsperson. The court passed the ruling guided by considerations of the defendant’s rights, and timesaving, as well as referring to the lengthy nature and complexity of the trial.

Thus an important step was taken yesterday towards reinstating justice in the case of Olaolu Femi. His release from custody significantly reduces the opportunity for the Prosecutor’s Office to put pressure on him. However human rights and civic organizations and activists will need to undertake lengthy and time-consuming work in order to get all the charges against Femi removed, and the people responsible for falsifying the investigation material held to answer.

The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for 7 May. 

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