A Nigerian atheist has been sentenced to 24 years in prison by a high court in the northern state of Kano after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam. Mubarak Bala jailed.

Mubarak Bala jailed

Mubarak Bala, the 37-year-old president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria; pleaded guilty to all 18 charges and asked for leniency.

He has been in detention since 2020.

A group of Muslims had filed a petition to the authorities accusing Bala of posting uncomplimentary messages about Islam on social media.

Kano has a majority Muslim population. It is one of around a dozen states in northern Nigeria where Islamic law is practised alongside secular laws.

Bala could have faced the death penalty if he was tried in an Islamic court.

UN human rights experts and international rights groups had condemned his detention and called for his release.

Bala renounced his Islamic faith in 2014. He was then reportedly taken to a psychiatric hospital before being discharged.

He was arrested in 2020 in neighbouring Kaduna state, and transferred to Kano, his home state.

Nigeria is Africa’s most-populous country and most people in its mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south are deeply religious.

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However, Bala’s lawyer, James Ibor, who had earlier pleaded with him to reconsider his position; told the court that his client pleaded guilty to the charges out of fear and frustration.

An Abuja Federal High Court had earlier ruled against the arrest and detention of Bala in 2020.

The court however, in its judgment on a fundamental right enforcement suit judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo; declared that Bala’s detention was illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The court also ruled that the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation constituted gross infringements; of his rights to personal liberty; fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement.

It however awarded damages of N250,000 damages in his favour.

But the judgment has been ignored by the authorities. Mubarak Bala jailed.

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