Call rises for release of man detained for critical post on Islam

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United Nations experts have called for the release of Mubarak Bala who has been detained for over a year by the Nigerian Police for his Facebook post considered to be critical of Islam.

Bala, an atheist and humanist has been detained without charge but human rights groups led by the Amnesty International have called for his release.

Bala, who is the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria faces death penalty if convicted under the law being operated in many parts of Northern Nigeria.

He was arrested in Kaduna on 28th of April, 2020 after a petition by a lawyer, S.S Umar, backed by some Islamic figures and was later transferred to Kano State.

In a recent statement, the human rights experts denounced the Nigerian government over Bala’s continued detention.

“Today marks one year since Mr. Bala was arrested and detained in Kano State, without any formal charges, on allegations of blasphemy. His arbitrary detention has continued despite our appeals to the Government in May and July last year,” the human rights experts said in the statement which was also published by the Office of the High Commission of the UN Human Rights.

Describing Mr Bala’s prolonged detention as a “flagrant violation of fundamental human rights,” the experts said it also sends the wrong signal to extremist groups that silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and others is acceptable.

“The arrest and prolonged detention of Mr. Bala is not only a flagrant violation of fundamental rights, but it has also had a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria.

“Through his continued detention, the Government is sending the wrong signal to extremist groups that the silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and minority non-believers is acceptable,” the experts stated.

Delivering judgment in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed on his behalf, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, on December 21, 2020, declared Mr Bala’s detention illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The court also ruled that the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement.

The court also awarded damages of N250,000 damages in his favour.

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