Nigerian atheist jailed for blasphemy over Facebook posts | News
Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was accused of attempting to “disturb public order”.
A Nigerian court has sentenced an atheist to 24 years in prison for posting social media posts deemed blasphemous against Islam in the northern region of the West African country.
Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty to blasphemy charges following a lengthy trial in which he spent nearly two years in prison.
Bala is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria and activists have said his conviction illustrates the risks of being openly infidel in northern Nigeria, which is predominantly Muslim.
Prosecutors in northern Kano state have accused Bala of posting Facebook posts insulting the Prophet Muhammad and the religion of Islam, and attempting to ‘undermine public order’ , according to court documents.
Bala has long maintained his innocence of the blasphemy charges but only changed his guilty plea after “enormous pressure over the past few years”, said Leo Igwe, founder of the Nigerian Humanist Association.
“The judge is compromised”
Bala was tried in a secular court but could have faced the death penalty in Nigerian Islamic courts that operate in other parts of the north of the country.
“He thinks the judge is compromised…and would just prefer closure,” Bala’s attorney James Ibori said.
Bala’s prolonged stay in jail and eventual sentencing has angered some Nigerians and activists who have blamed authorities for a flawed prosecution process. He should not have been charged under Kano state law, Ibori said, because “he was not in Kano when the offense was allegedly committed.”
While incarcerated, Bala was denied access to health care, kept in solitary confinement and forced to “worship the Islamic way”, Ibori said.
The Kano state government denied any wrongdoing during the trial and said the judgment could be appealed.
With Bala’s sentencing, humanitarians and non-believers in Nigeria are “now potential criminals… who can easily be thrown into jail simply for expressing their views”, Igwe said.
“Humanists have become endangered Nigerian citizens.”