Atheist Mubarak Bala sentenced to 24 years in prison for blaspheming Islam

Nigerian atheist Mubarak Bala

Atheist Mubarak Bala has been sentenced to 24 years in prison by Kano State High Court after being convicted of blaspheming Islam.

The 37-year-old president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who has been in detention since 2020, pleaded guilty to all 18 charges and asked for leniency.

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

On April 27, 2020, Bala compared founder of the Synagogue Church of Nations Prophet TB Joshua with Prophet Muhammad.

“There’s no difference between Prophet TB Joshua (S.A.W) of Lagos and Muhammadu (A.S.) of Saudi Arabia,” Bala wrote on his Facebook page.

In another post, Bala said “Whoever believes religion has been duped – If you can’t take blasphemy against Islam, criticism of its doctrines, this page is not for you. I have not even started.”

A group of Muslim lawyers subsequently petitioned the Kano State Police command, demanding that Bala be prosecuted for insulting Prophet Muhammad.

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

Bala long maintained his innocence of the charges of blasphemy but he changed his plea to guilty only after enormous pressure, said Leo Igwe, founder of the Nigerian Humanist Association.

Bala’s lawyer James Ibor said his client should not have been charged under Kano state law because he was not in Kano when the offence was allegedly committed.

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.