JOHANNESBURG — A man who cheated the hangman at the gallows has been freed after 19 years on death row in Nigeria, Amnesty International said Monday.
Thankgod Ebhos, 54, was dragged to the gallows and watched four fellow death-row inmates being hanged in June 2013. He was saved because prison officials realized that his sentence by a military tribunal called for him to be shot by a firing squad.
Human rights lawyers filed an appeal noting he had been convicted while the country was under a military dictatorship notorious for unfair trials and torturing confessions from prisoners.
A court of the Economic Community of West African states in June ruled that Ebhos should be freed.
Amnesty International said he was released from jail on Friday on orders of the governor of Kaduna state, where he had been convicted of armed robbery.
Last year’s hangings were the first in nearly eight years, breaking an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. A public outcry appears to have stopped the hangings.
Nigeria had 1,039 people on death row last year.
“The release of ThankGod Ebhos brings great hope to the many hundreds who are languishing on death row across Nigeria,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for research and advocacy. “Nigeria must build on the positive step taken today, immediately halt plans to carry out any more executions and move toward abolishing the death penalty.”