There is the famous saying by Martin Luther King Junior that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As you all may know, my legal practice encompasses criminal defense work. I have been practicing law for eleven (11) years now. Of the eleven years, eight of it, till now, has included extensive representation of numerous criminal defendants charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes. Truth be told, I also enjoy this kind of work immensely. I think one of the core reasons is that it touches on the cornerstone of American democracy which I believe and value so much i.e. the Constitution. In the case of criminal law, the belief that a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty is certainly one I hold dearly.
Indeed, when I look at other countries and their criminal justice systems, I think, often, that we may not get it quite right here in the USA, per se, with our criminal justice system. But, boy am I glad to be an American (Nigerian-American to be even more specific) and to advocate for those who can’t with one of the most important documents in the history of our nation, The Constitution.
I read about the case below, occurring in Ukraine, yesterday, and it has kept me quite restless. If you are a blogger reading this, a little space on your blog to share the story of this young man is absolutely necessary. Everyone else, you can retweet and share this story on facebook, linkedin, email your friends and so many other platforms. There are so many things that are glaringly wrong with the set of facts described in this case. For starters, one man trying to allegedly kill five people is a bit suspect. When you add the size of the five he allegedly attempted to kill, then the story becomes even more dubious. There are more disturbing facts.
At a minimum, he ought to have had a court interpreter by now that would interpret the Russian language so he may be arraigned and possibly released on bail. That he has been detained for over six months with the Police refusing to find a court interpreter to get him into court for an arraignment is beyond me. I also wondered what kind of criminal defense lawyer he has that is comfortable with having her client six in jail for over six months without an arraignment based on what amounts to a weak excuse, at best. I have heard, directly from Ukrainians and members of the Russian community that there is intense racial hostility against black people in their respective countries. It seemed a bit abstract at the time to understand how it really played out since I have never been to these countries. But this story right here illustrates it.
Story from African Outlook:
African Outlook gathered that the Nigerian identified as Olaolu Sunkanmi Femi and one of his friends were physically attacked in front of his apartment by four Ukrainian young men and two women who pulled them to the ground while hurling racist slurs on them.According to eye witness account, Sunkanmi was said to have managed to get up and defended himself against the assailants with a glass from a broken bottle.
“It was while he was defending himself that police arrived at the scene and the Nigerian was subsequently arrested and charged with attempted murder of five people” a Nigerian embassy staff who has knowledge of the case told African Outlook, adding that the victim thus became an accused in a case which has become a celebrated case in Ukraine.
African Outlook gathered that Olasunkanmi has since been remanded in detention by the Ukrainian police who refused to take the case to court citing unavailability of the police to get an interpreter for him.
But the Nigerian students’ community in Ukraine under the leadership of Osarumen David-Izevbokun, a Phd student in international relations has been working tirelessly to ensure justice for the Nigerian by organizing protests as well as drawing the attentions of the human right groups in Ukraine to the plight of Olasunkanmi who has spent almost seven months in jail without trial.
David-Izevbokun told African Outlook that he alongside other Nigerian students in conjunctions with some members of the Ukrainian human right groups staged a protest on April, 9 outside the Leninsky District Court in Luhanski demanding the release of Olasunkanmi.
The actions, according to David-Izevbokun has put the Ukraine police on the spot as the case came up for hearing on May 3. “We had a lot of media coverage on the protest ” David-Izevbokun said, noting that he was sure the attention given the case may have prompted the May 3 court appearance of the suspect.
David-Izevbokun who was at the May 3, court hearing told African Outlook that Olasunkanmi appeared depressed when he showed up in court.
Many other Nigerian students spoken to by African Outlook however raised concern about the competence of the female lawyer: Ludmila Havrysh handling Olasunkanmi’s case.
The Ukrainian lawyer was reported to have told protesters that her client has not been able to read the file material since it is all written in Ukrainian or Russian which he doesn’t understand and that was why her client had remained in jail.
“We heard she wanted to be paid $10,000 when she had not even been able to secure bail for her client who has been in detention for more than six months” an irate Nigerian told African Outlook wondering whether the lawyer was capable of defending Olasunkanmi.
Another source also told African Outlook that one of the attackers’s family who has a connection with the Ukrainian police may have been the reason why the Nigerian student was being detained without trial.
“They went to the hospital and documents were secured for infliction of wounds. I learnt that one of the supposed victim (Ukrainian) has a police relative or parent, and so vowed to deal ruthlessly with Olasunkanmi” a Nigerian student quoted one narrator as saying while lamenting that the Nigerian embassy’s representative came to visit Olasunkanmi in jail once but did not return again after the first visit.
But an embassy spokesperson who pleaded anonymity (because he is not authorized to comment on the case) told African Outlook that the Nigerian consulate had not abandoned the Nigerian to his fate “We are in torch with the Ukrainian authority and we have been doing everything to ensure the boy is released unconditionally using diplomatic channel” he said, adding that the Olasunkanmi was being charged for attempted murder, an offense which under Ukrainian law is not bailable.
“There are ways in which we handle cases like this so that we would not appear to be hostile or criticizing our host countries’ laws” the embassy staff said while assuring that he was confident Olasunkanmi would be released soon.
When asked if the embassy has been able to secure the service of an attorney for the Nigerian student, the embassy staff said: “It is not within our mandate to pay for attorney’s fees for any Nigerian in distress, you may check this out with other Nigerian embassies abroad, but we have been working with the Nigerian community leaders here to ensure that we do everything within our means to help Olasunkanmi in time of his need” the staff added hinting that the representative of the embassy was at the May 3 hearing.
In a related development African Outlook gathered that a 28-year-old Nigerian student of Kharkiv National Radio Electronic University is in intensive care unit with knife injuries to his neck following an attack on him by people believed to be racists.
Another 19-year-old Nigerian student from the Poltava Agrarian Academy is also lying critically ill in the Ukrainian hospital following knife injury inflicted on him by yet to be identified persons.
African Outlook gathered that the two Nigerian students were attacked late in the evenings by assailants who fled the scene immediately after the attacks.
The Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Ukraine are treating both cases as attempted murder motivated by racial intolerance.
Speaking on the two recent attacks, the Nigerian embassy said they were yet to be briefed on the case.There’s a #FreeOlaolu page on Facebook..you can go there to show support – Facebook.com/FreeOlaolu