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Nigerian atheist sentenced to 24 years in prison for blasphemy

The charges against Mubarak Bala relate to comments he posted on Facebook in April 2020 that were critical of Islam and that authorities in Kano considered blasphemous and an insult to religion, his lawyer said.

When asked by Judge Farouk Lawan of the Kano High Court whether he was forced to plead guilty to all 18 counts, Bala said he did so of his own free will.

Bala, who heads the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in northern Kaduna state two years ago and then transferred to neighboring Kano, a predominantly Muslim and conservative state .

The Humanist Association said on Tuesday that Mubarak’s guilty plea “was not part of the agreed legal strategy and came as a surprise (for) his legal team”.

“It is likely that he was intimidated, and that he may have been led to plead guilty in the hope of a light sentence,” added the association in a press release published on its website. Internet.

Bala’s attorney, James Ibor, said Tuesday’s sentencing was “very outrageous” and could be challenged.

“The conviction infringes his right as an atheist,” Ibor told Reuters.

Kano’s Information Commissioner, Mohammed Garba, told CNN on Wednesday that the state government will “comply with the court’s rulings.”

Blasphemy convictions are nothing new in Kano, where a version of Sharia law is in effect and is enforced by a religious police force known as the Hisbah Corps.

Two years ago, a 22-year-old music studio assistant, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, was sentenced to death by hanging after being found guilty by an Islamic court in Kano of making “a blasphemous statement against the Prophet Muhammad in a WhatsApp group”.

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