Africa Union

Nigeria atheist Mubarak Bala jailed for blaspheming Islam


A Nigerian atheist has been sentenced to 24 years in prison by a high court in the northern state of Kano after being convicted of blaspheming Islam.

Mubarak Bala, the 37-year-old president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, pleaded guilty to all 18 charges and asked for leniency.

He has been in detention since 2020.

A group of Muslims had filed a petition to the authorities accusing Bala of posting uncomplimentary messages about Islam on social media.

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Kano has a majority Muslim population. It is one of around a dozen states in northern Nigeria where Islamic law is practised alongside secular laws.

Bala could have faced the death penalty if he was tried in an Islamic court.

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UN human rights experts and international rights groups had condemned his detention and called for his release.

Bala renounced his Islamic faith in 2014. He was then reportedly taken to a psychiatric hospital before being discharged.

He was arrested in 2020 in neighbouring Kaduna state, and transferred to Kano, his home state.

Nigeria is Africa's most-populous country and most people in its mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south are deeply religious.

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