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. Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested for blasphemy in 2020 and was convicted on April 5 2022.
“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,” says Leo Igwe, a trustee of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.
After almost two years of illegal detention, Bala pleaded guilty to the charges. But according to his lawyer, the plea was not part of the legal strategy, and Bala might have been tricked to believe that a guilty plea would earn him a lighter sentence. Incidentally the plea did not.
"The judge did not seem to consider that he had been illegally locked up for two years, or what effect it must have had on him or the apparent conflict between his position and that of lawyer. He appeared overly willing to accept the guilty plea, and to impose two 24 years sentences, only relenting by allowing them to be served consecutively", says George Mbuagbaw, HAN's Interim President.
Humanists believe that Bala is being targeted because he renounced Islam, and for his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of conscience or belief. We urge the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the sentence is overturned and that blasphemy laws are repealed.