For Immediate Release
Kate Uesugi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-238-9088 x105
(Washington, DC, April 28, 2021) – On the one-year anniversary of the illegal detention of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, the American Humanist Association (AHA) joins 89 organizations and concerned individuals across the globe in publishing an open letter addressed to the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, seeking Bala’s immediate release.
Adding their voice to the chorus of humanist organizations are bastions of freedom of expression, such as Index on Censorship, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, PEN International, PEN Nigeria, and the African Freedom of Expression Exchange.
Arrested at his home in Kaduna state on April 28, 2020, Bala was subsequently transferred to Kano state, where a complaint had been filed based on posts Bala is alleged to have made on Facebook, which the petitioners judged to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.
Following months of advocacy, Bala was finally granted access to his legal team in October 2020, more than five months after his initial arrest. Bala has yet to be brought before a court and charged with a crime, remains in detention in violation of his rights to liberty, fair trial, freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of movement.
Bala’s case has been subject to multiple and repeated irregularities, including:
- Bala has now been held without charge for 365 days in contravention of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
- Court hearings have been subjected to repeated adjournments;
- The Kano State Police Commissioner repeatedly refused to comply with an order issued by a Magistrate requiring the police to grant Bala access to his legal team;
- The Kano State authorities have failed to comply with a ruling of the Abuja High Court that determined that Bala should be released on bail.
“The ongoing detention of Mubarak Bala, for nothing more than exercising his freedom of belief and expression, is unacceptable and must come to an end,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt commented. “The AHA joins the international humanist community to call for Bala’s immediate release.”
Bala was adopted by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Frederick A. Davie, as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. USCIRF recommended Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern in both their 2020 and 2021 Annual Reports.
On December 21, 2020, Honorable Justice I. E. Ekwo ruled that Bala should be released on bail, however, Kano state officials have failed to comply.
In a supplementary filing before the Abuja High Court, Bala’s legal team contested the Kano State authorities’ competence to prosecute the case on the basis of jurisdiction. A hearing of the petition, scheduled for April 20, 2021, had to be postponed as a result of industrial strike action.
“The failure of the Kano State authorities to fulfill their obligations to protect the rights of Bala while in their custody clearly demonstrates that our colleague has little hope of a fair trial if he were to be charged in a Kano State court,” Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International stated.
“Bala has been separated from his family for an entire year. We are deeply concerned for his safety, that of his family, and that of his legal team. The Governor of Kano State must put an end to this human rights abuse now,” Speckhardt concluded.
Read the letter here.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.