Atheist imprisoned in Nigeria
In 2022, Mubarak Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison on 18 counts of causing a public disturbance by publishing ‘blasphemous’ Facebook posts.
Themes: Blasphemy, freedom of thought, freedom of expression
Mubarak Bala is a self-identified atheist from Kano State in northeast Nigeria. He became well known in 2014 when the media reported that he had been forcibly drugged and committed to a psychiatric unit by his family members after telling them he was atheist. He was released shortly thereafter and became an outspoken advocate for Nigerian atheist rights and freedoms. Until his arrest, Bala resided in Kaduna State, about 130 miles south of Kano, and served as the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association.
Bala was arrested on April 28, 2020, reportedly for a Facebook post in which he allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad, by saying “Fact is, you have no life after this one. You have been dead before, long before you were born, billions of years of death.” The arrest followed a petition by a group of lawyers to the Kano State Police Commissioner to prosecute Bala for posting things on Facebook that are “provocative and annoying to Muslims,” and an online petition to close Bala’s Facebook account.
Kaduna State police, in response to a request from Kano State police, arrested Bala in his home in Kaduna State. He was then transferred to Kano State police custody, where he was held without charge over more than a year. In December a federal court in the capital, Abuja, determined Bala’s detention unconstitutional and ordered authorities in Kano to either charge Bala with a crime under secular law or release him. In August 2021, a court charged Bala under customary law with 10 counts of causing a public disturbance in connection to “blasphemous” Facebook posts he is alleged to have made over the course of April 2020.
On April 5, 2022, the Kano State High Court sentenced Bala to 24 years in prison after convicting him of 18 counts of causing a public disturbance under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code, respectively.
Source 24 years
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom