Mubarak Bala, the Nigerian man detained on a psychiatric ward for being an atheist, is now free.
Mubarak had been detained and medicated at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital for 18 days in Kano state, northern Nigeria. He sought help from the hospital via email and social media, until his phone was confiscated.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) along with humanists from Lagos Humanists and Skeptics worked to verify the claims initially, before instructing a lawyer based in Kano, and then together pressured the hospital authorities to reassess the case, and for national government to call for the Mubarak’s swift release.
During his ordeal at the hospital, Mubarak stated on Twitter that his influential father, Muhammad Bala, formerly head of the Social Reorientation Directorate of Kano state, had been responsible for his initial commitment to the hospital, after Mubarak had spoken openly about his personal beliefs and offered criticism of religion.
Despite repeated requests, the hospital failed to put in writing to Mubarak’s lawyer any statement specifying a formal diagnosis, or any rationale for holding Mubarak against his will.
Mubarak disclosed that he had been released on Tuesday afternoon in a message to close supporters a few hours later. He was released due to a strike at the hospital which saw many patients discharged. Mubarak, IHEU and activists who had been working for his release, agreed for Mubarak’s safety not to release information until he was sure he was in as safe a position as he could be, and he noted that if it wasn’t for the international pressure and support he feared that a worse fate may have already befallen him.
In a statement today, Mubarak said — regarding the relationship with his family and the possibility of legal action — “I have chosen to put things behind me for the sake of reconciliation. I am no longer interested in pursuing the reliefs and intervention I earlier sought. I have been assured of my safety, integrity, and privacy as well as freedom of speech, of conscience and of religion” in accordance with his universal human rights.
Mubarak thanked his lawyer “who took great risk given the nature of the case and the environment we live in”, as well as Bob Churchill of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, bloggers and activists Godless mom, Nancy PI, Chris Logan, “BibleBS”, and from the Nigerian Humanist movement Bamidele Adeneye and Adeyinka Shorungbe.
“I thank you all for the concern and advice. To those who have made threats against me, I urge you to reason and learn to tolerate opinions other than yours. Education and free speech cannot be cured, but love for humanity is our panacea, we share the same destiny. All that I have said is in good will that we may all prosper and learn the facts of life.”
Mubarak Bala is staying in a secure location and his plans looking forward are not being disclosed at this time.
There are still deep concerns for Mubarak’s safety in a part of the country where accusations of “apostasy” can be deadly. IHEU calls on the media and Kano state authorities to assure that Mubarak’s privacy is respected and his safety is paramount.