Nigeria: Court of Appeal reduces sentence of Mubarak Bala

  • post Type / Action Alert
  • Date / 13 May 2024

Humanists International welcomes news that the Court of Appeal sitting in Kano upheld the appeal of Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala, ordering that his sentence be reduced from 24 years in prison to five years.

Leo Igwe, Board Member of Humanists International

Dr Leo Igwe, Board member of Humanists International, commented:

“This ruling by the court of appeal provides a glimmer of hope for the rule of law, justice and humanity in Nigeria. Bala’s imprisonment is an affront on basic humanism and violates the core principles of human rights.”

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. Two years later, on 5 April 2022, he was convicted on 18 counts of “causing a public disturbance” under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code, respectively.

Emitting their judgment today, the presiding justices reportedly unanimously agreed that the sentence handed down to Bala in April 2022 was excessive and in contravention of the law. The court reduced Bala’s sentence to five years in prison.  The state has the right to appeal.

Bala and his legal team will review the judgment in full in order to determine if there may be further grounds for appeal.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International said:

“The Court of Appeal’s judgment is welcome news, coming four years on from when Mubarak was arbitrarily detained at home following unjust complaints. We believe that Mubarak should never have been imprisoned for expressing his beliefs in a peaceful manner, and that he pled guilty to these charges under duress.

“Free speech is a fundamental right for a free society, and Humanists International will continue its efforts to support those who are wrongfully imprisoned for expressing their beliefs peacefully.”

Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief. While the organization welcomes the reduction in Bala’s sentence, it reiterates its conviction that he should never have been convicted in the first instance, and urges the state and federal authorities to repeal their outdated blasphemy laws.

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