A high court in the Nigerian state of Kano has sentenced an atheist to 24 years in jail for blaspheming Islam. According to BBC, 37-year-old Mubarak Bala was handed the sentence after he pleaded guilty to a total of 18 charges that were brought against him. He also pleaded for leniency.
Bala, who is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, has been in custody since 2020. His arrest and subsequent trial came after a group of Muslims called him out for allegedly sharing derogatory messages about Islam on social media. The group also reported him to authorities.
Kano, whose population is largely Muslim, practices Islamic law as well as secular laws. Multiple states in northern Nigeria also do the same. If Bala had faced trial in an Islamic court, he could have been sentenced to death if he was found guilty of the charges.
The 37-year-old’s arrest was condemned by UN human rights experts and international rights groups. They also asked authorities to release him.
Previously a Muslim, Bala renounced the religion in 2014. He was subsequently evaluated at a psychiatric hospital before he was eventually discharged, BBC reported. Authorities, however, arrested him in Kaduna in 2020 and extradited him to his home state of Kano.