Outrage over Nigeria atheist’s jailing for blasphemy

Human rights campaigners have expressed outrage over the sentencing of an atheist to 24 years in jail by a court in the northern Nigerian state of Kano.

Mubarak Bala, the president of Humanist Associate of Nigeria, was arrested in 2020 and on Tuesday pleaded guilty to 18 charges of blasphemy against Islam and posting messages on social media that could incite violence.

Humanist International, an organisation committed to promoting freedom of belief around the world, described the judgment as “outrageous”.

It said it was “a day of shame for the Nigerian authorities”.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also condemned the jailing of Bala.

His group, the Humanist Association of Nigeria, said it was “utterly shocked” and it was a “sad day” for humanism and freedom.

But the court ruling has been widely welcomed in northern Nigeria – a predominantly Muslim region – with some saying his actions denigrate the religion of others. Rights groups say they will continue to campaign for his release.

The 37-year-old atheist renounced Islam in 2014 and later became the president of Humanist Association of Nigeria.


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