Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala’s sentence drastically cut by Court of Appeal

14 May, 2024

The Court of Appeal in Kano has drastically reduced the sentence of Mubarak Bala, imprisoned President of the Nigerian Humanist Association, from 24 years to five. The judges unanimously found that his original sentence for blasphemous Facebook posts was excessive and in contravention of the law. Bala has already been in prison for four years, so this means he has one year left to serve.

Humanists UK has been calling for Bala’s release since he was arrested in 2020 for posting ‘blasphemous’ content on Facebook that was deemed likely to cause a public disturbance. Two years later, he was convicted on 18 counts of ‘causing a public disturbance’ under the Kano Penal Code and sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment.

Pictured: Andrew Copson outside the Nigerian High Commission, London, #FreeMubarakBala protest, 2020

Procedural irregularities were rife throughout his case. Bala remained in detention without charge for well over a year before even being charged. Even once charged, his trial was repeatedly delayed and the charges against him were duplicated. He was denied access to his lawyers, family, and medical attention for an extended period. Before his trial the Abuja High Court ruled that he should be released on bail but this was ignored by Kano State authorities. When the trial came, Bala entered a guilty plea to the charges against him, but there is reason to believe that this was under duress.  

Following the outcome of his appeal, Bala and his legal team are reviewing the judgment to determine if there may be grounds for further appeal. The state also has the right to appeal this latest ruling.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:

‘We welcome the news that Mubarak’s sentence has been significantly reduced. However, the fact remains that he never should have been arrested in the first place. No-one should be detained for peacefully expressing their beliefs.

‘His case exemplifies the need to abolish blasphemy laws, which intrinsically contravene the right to freedom of religion or belief. We continue to campaign to end all blasphemy laws and to secure the release of those detained under them.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, is also President of Humanists International. Speaking in that capacity, he 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.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read Humanists International’s statement on the news.

Read more about our international work.

Read more about the End Blasphemy Laws campaign.

Read Humanists International’s case file on Mubarak Bala.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 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.