Atheists In Kenya Society

Positive news: Mubarak Bala’s sentence reduced

A Court of Appeal sitting in Kano, northern Nigeria, has reduced the 24-year sentence handed to an atheist, Mubarak Bala, over blasphemy to five years. The Atheists In Kenya Society welcomes this decision. AIK however insist that his imprisonment is an affront on his fundamental freedoms and human rights.

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 Nigerian Courts to release Mubarak Bala.

Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was sentenced in 2022 after pleading guilty to charges of blasphemy after a lengthy trial during which he spent nearly two years in prison.

Prosecutors in the West African country’s predominantly Muslim northern state of Kano said Bala had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in Facebook posts which they claimed sought to, “cause a breach of the public peace.” Bala had long maintained his innocence but surprised his legal team Tuesday by pleading guilty to 18 charges of blasphemy.

The presiding judge halted the trial to grant counsel the opportunity to speak to Bala to “be sure he was under no influence or intimidation” and understood “the implication of his plea.”

Bala told the court he was “pleading for mercy and leniency,” adding: “The intention of the posts was not to cause violence but I have realized they are capable of causing violence. I will take care in the future.”

Supporters feared that he was coerced by Nigerian authorities and questioned the state’s motives, raising issues of a flawed process.

During his nearly two years in detention, Bala was reportedly put in solitary confinement where he was denied health care and forced to “worship in the Muslim way,” according to his lawyer.

Authorities in Kano insist the trial was fair, stating that Bala is welcome to appeal its decision.

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