Tuesday 15 October 2019

Jury clears Nigerian man involved in circumcision death case

Kathy Donaghyand Michael Quinn

A NIGERIAN man who carried out a circumcision on a month-old baby, who later bled to death, walked free from court yesterday.

Osajie Ighinedion (31), of Millennium Court, Kilkenny, was found not guilty by a jury at Waterford Circuit Court yesterday of reckless endangerment.

The trial heard that baby Callis Osagaje had bled to death following the circumcision carried out on the kitchen table of his home at Summerhill Mews, Waterford, on August 17, 2003.

After one and a half hours of deliberation the jury of 10 men and two women returned a not guilty verdict in the case which has been described as a case where there was a clash of two cultures.

The parents of baby Callis were not in court to hear the verdict.

Mabel and Idehen Osagaje had both given evidence in the trial earlier in the four-day hearing.

At 3.01pm yesterday, the jury returned with their unanimous verdict after which Mr Justice Kevin Haugh told Mr Ighinedion he was free to go.

Sitting in the main body of the court room, Mr Ighinedion's wife, Kathleen, wiped a tear from her eye and hugged her sister who sat beside her.

As her husband left his seat there were shouts from a family friend of "thank you Jesus, thank my Jesus".

Mr Ighinedion held his wife's hand before the couple embraced at the door of the courts.

Outside the courtroom, the couple hugged his solicitor Brian Chesser before Mr Chesser made a statement on behalf of his client.

"His prayers and thoughts are at this moment with Callis Osagaje and his family," Mr Chesser said.

The solicitor said his client wished to thank the jury who he said had a very difficult task. "They have had to shirk off their Western mores and ways and have done a magnificent job as far as Osagie is concerned.

"It has been a real test of justice here because of the difficulty from whence an all-white jury were coming," Mr Chesser said.

"The judge put it so simply when he said they had to shake off their Western values and put themselves in the place of Osagie here."

And he said Mr Ighinedion wanted to thank them for their patience and consideration.

He said his client also wanted to thank the judge for a fair trial as well as thanking all members of his legal team.

"Osagie himself has served four months and seven days in prison.

"He has been vindicated in his stance on what he did. What he did was done to the best of his ability with his skill and knowledge. From his point of view he will not apportion blame. That has been clear from the trial as to where the blame lies.

"Finally, he also has a special thanks for his God and maker for standing by him. He wanted me to say thank you God for standing by him and giving him the courage and strength and support to continue," Mr Chesser said.

Mr Ighinedion said all along he had gone through pain. "One thing I do know. Anything you will do, and it will not hurt your neighbour, go ahead and do it. God will set you free. A circumcision is not a crime and I'm delighted the Irish government know that," Mr Ighinedion said.

"If the Irish government is ready to assist me, I will prove to them I am one of the expert circumcisionists in the world. If they really want me to continue, they should give me direction and I would be delighted."

Asked if he would carry out a circumcision for a member of the Nigerian community this weekend, for example, he said: "I would like to get permission from the Justice Department."

He said he would wait until the time that the government gave him the go-ahead. He had been doing circumcisions for many years but said this was a country not used to circumcision.

Mr Ighinedion said, while he was being held in prison, he was called a witch doctor and was even stoned.

His wife said she was just glad it was all over.

"My husband has suffered for the past two years. People have looked down on him, having him guilty before it was proved guilty. We can get on with our lives now."

Asked how did they cope, Mrs Ighinedion said: "We coped. We pray to God. He has proven to everyone that he is not guilty."

Mrs Ighinedion was critical of some of the pre-trial media coverage because she said this led to people looking down on her husband.

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