Ukraine, Luhansk – The doorsteps of the local court in the eastern city of Luhansk witnessed an unusual scene on Sept. 12.
A dozen people gathered there demanded a fair trial for a 20-year-old foreign student from Nigeria. Opposite them, a group of 5 ultranationalists demanded a death sentence, despite the fact that capital punishment has been abolished in Ukraine.
Olaolu Sunkanmi Femi has spent more than 10 months behind bars in pre-trial detention for allegedly attempting to kill 4 local men with a broken-off bottle neck. If found guilty, he could face life in prison in a case which human rights activists say is a set-up.
On Nov. 5, 2011 Olaolu and his friend were coming to their classmates’ apartment. They saw a group of 6 young locals in the courtyard. The versions of what happened next vary.
Olaolu and his friend’s story seem pretty typical for Ukraine, where racist attacks are far from being exceptional.
“Olaolu says he and his friend were drunk, and were coming to their friend’s apartment. In the yard they were verbally abused by a group of drinking young people who yelled racist slurs about monkeys, Africa and the like. When Olaolu replied angrily, some of the group became aggressive, chased them and beat them up,” says Maksym Butkevych, coordinator of the No Borders human rights center, which is monitoring the case.Continue reading