Mubarak Bala, the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for posting ‘blasphemous’ content on Facebook. Bala had been in prison awaiting trial for the last two years, and humanists around the world have been campaigning for his release during that time. Today Humanists UK has condemned his sentencing, and urged the UK Government to do what it can to urge the Nigerian authorities to let him free.
Humanists have long been campaigning for Mr Bala’s release, including in the UK Parliament. Just last month, Humanists UK spoke out against his detention in an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council. In 2020, eleven United Nations experts, including six special rapporteurs, came together to call for his immediate release.
His case has long been plagued with procedural irregularities, including not being charged for 462 days, being denied access to his legal team and his family for five months, being denied medical care, and having hearings repeatedly delayed. The Abuja High Court also ruled that he should be released on bail, but this was ignored by the authorities in Kano State, where he is held.
Dr Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Association and a Board member of Humanists International. He told Humanists International:
‘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.’
Andrew Copson is Chief Executive of Humanists UK and also the elected President of Humanists International. Today he commented:
‘The thoughts of the whole global humanist movement are with our friend Mubarak, his wife, and his baby son. 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 offences that amount to no more than expressing a non-religious opinion. This is a day of shame for the Nigerian authorities, who have imposed an unthinkable punishment on an innocent man.
‘We appreciate the efforts so far of the UK Government in support of his release, but it is clear that those efforts now need redoubling. We will be working with them and others to try to secure the release of our innocent friend and colleague.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.