Nigeria: Mubarak Bala appears in court for first time in 644 days
Today’s court appearance represents the first time Bala has appeared in court in the 644 days in which he has been detained. During the session, Bala denied all charges. A ruling on Bala’s petition for bail is expected in the coming months as the case proceeds to trial.
Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested from his home in Kaduna State, northern Nigeria, on 28 April 2020 in connection with a series of Facebook posts which some deemed to be “blasphemous” and likely to cause a public disturbance.
Subsequently transferred into the custody of Kano State, where the initial complaint was filed, Bala was held for more than five months before being granted access to his legal counsel. It was a further 10 months before he was formally charged with 10 counts of causing a public disturbance under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code, respectively. The circumstances of his detention represent a clear violation of his fundamental rights guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law.
Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, commented:
“Today’s court proceedings represent a significant milestone in Bala’s case. While we welcome that there is, at last, progress in his case, we urge the authorities to drop all charges against Mubarak immediately and unconditionally and ensure his safety upon his release.“
Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and calls for the case against him to be dropped, for Bala to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Nigerian authorities to ensure his safety upon his release. To this end, we urge the state and federal authorities to intervene on behalf of Bala to protect his human rights, including by granting him access to medical treatment.