For Immediate Release
Kate Uesugi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-238-9088 x105
(Washington, DC, August 4, 2021) – The American Humanist Association rejects the validity of the charges announced against the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala. On August 3, 2021, Bala was charged with 10 counts of causing a public disturbance in connection to “blasphemous” Facebook posts he is alleged to have made over the course of April 2020.
Arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April 2020, Bala was subsequently transferred to Kano state, where a complaint had been filed based on said Facebook posts, which the petitioners judged to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. He had been detained without charge for more than a year, and, for more than five months, denied access to his legal representatives.
“Every day that Bala remains detained will add to his personal health and safety risks,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt commented. “His human rights have been denied throughout this process, giving us good reason to question his chances for a fair trial in Kano State.”
The delay in charges filed, coupled with the human rights abuses he has experienced thus far in this process, reflect a politicization of Bala’s case. In Kano State, under customary law, “blasphemy” is still a highly sensitive issue and is classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison.
In December 2020, both chambers of Congress adopted resolutions calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. Earlier that year, Bala’s case 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. Additionally, USCIRF recommended Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern in both their 2020 and 2021 Annual Reports, which the AHA supports.
“The AHA joins the international humanist community to call for the transfer of Bala to neutral territory and demand that he is given the fair trial he is entitled to. Bala shouldn’t be unduly punished for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of religion,” Speckhardt concluded.
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.