2020 Scottish Humanist of the Year jailed for 24 years for blasphemy

Mubarak Bala
  • Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, has been jailed for 24 years for Facebook posts considered ‘blasphemous’
  • Mubarak was awarded Humanist Society Scotland’s Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year Award in 2020

Humanist Society Scotland and humanists across the globe have reacted with dismay after Mubarak Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison in relation to social media posts that were deemed to be “blasphemous”.

Photo of Leo Igwe

Leo Igwe

Dr Leo Igwe, Board member of Humanists International from Nigeria, commented:

“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.”

Fraser Sutherland

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, said,

“We are devastated to hear our friend faces such a drastic and incomprehensible sentence. Mubarak has been imprisoned for having non-religious beliefs and saying so openly. This is an oppressive restriction of the right to free expression and freedom of thought, religion and belief. This sentence must be struck out with utmost urgency.”

Bala’s case has been subject to a series of procedural irregularities that have hindered his right to a fair trial. They include:

– Being presented in court for the first time 644 days after his arrest;
– Being denied access to medical care;
– Being held without charge for 462 days;
– Being denied access to his legal team for more than five months;
– Court hearings have been subjected to repeated adjournments;
– The Kano State Police Commissioner repeatedly refused to comply with an order issued by a Magistrate requiring the police to grant Bala access to his legal team;
– The Kano State authorities have failed to comply with a ruling of the Abuja High Court that determined that Bala should be released on bail.


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