Dr Leo Igwe, Board member of Humanists International, commented:
“The Humanist community in Nigeria is utterly shocked by the sentencing of Mubarak Bala for ‘blasphemy’. It is utterly disgraceful that a court in this 21st century could convict an individual for making innocuous posts on Facebook.
“Today is a sad day for humanism, human rights and freedom in Nigeria. The sentencing of Mubarak Bala is a stark violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. We urge the authorities in Nigeria to ensure that this judicial charade does not stand.”
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 that some deemed to be “blasphemous” and likely to cause a public disturbance.
Mubarak pled guilty to the charges in court. It was not part of the agreed legal strategy, and came as a surprise his legal team. It is likely that he was subjected to intimidation, and could have been tricked into pleading guilty in the hopes of a light sentence. There have been unconfirmed reports of threats against his family members.
Bala’s case has been subject to a series of procedural irregularities that have hindered his right to a fair trial. They include:
Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, commented:
“The thoughts of the whole global humanist movement are with our friend Mubarak, his wife, and his baby son. This is a day of shame for the Nigerian authorities, who have imposed an unthinkable punishment on an innocent man.
“For two years Mubarak’s fundamental rights to liberty and a fair trial have been consistently violated. He has been charged and found guilty of offenses that amount to no more than expressing a non-religious opinion. We call on the Nigerian authorities to quash this completely unjust and entirely disproportionate conviction, and release our innocent friend and colleague.”
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 his conviction and sentence to be overturned, 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 To this end, we urge the state and federal authorities to repeal their outdated blasphemy laws.