Mubarak Bala: 9 Things to Know about Nigerian Atheist Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison over Blasphemy

Mubarak Bala: 9 Things to Know about Nigerian Atheist Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison over Blasphemy

On Tuesday, April 5, the Kano state high court convicted Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian atheist. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to blasphemy.

Bala who is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria was arrested in 2020 in Kaduna state for blasphemy against Allah and His Prophet (SWA) and was consequently arraigned.

Mubarak Bala, Nigerian Atheist, 24 Years in Prison, Blasphemy, Humanist
Amina Ahmed, wife of Mubarak Bala, an outspoken atheist who was charged with blasphemy, displays her husband's photo at their home in Abuja, Nigeria, on March 11, 2021. Photo credit: KOLA SULAIMON
Source: AFP

He was later transferred to Kano, his home state, according to BBC.

Here are some key things to know about Mubarak Bala.


1. Mubarak Bala was born in Kano state in the mid-80s

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2. He is the husband of Amina Ahmed, a father and a chemical engineer by profession

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3. Bala attended the Islamic Foundation, Aliyu Bin Abi Talib Primary School.

4. He later attended private science secondary school, Hassan I. Gwarzo, in Kano state, where Islamic (Qur’anic) study is given a very high priority


5. Bala was a Muslim until 2014 when he renounced his Islamic faith. He was allegedly forcibly drugged and committed to a psychiatric unit by his family members after telling them he was an atheist, according to Daily Trust.

6. He was released shortly thereafter and became an outspoken advocate for Nigerian atheist rights and freedoms.

7. Bala was awarded Humanist Society Scotland’s Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year Award On 8 January 2021.

Blasphemy saga

8. Bala was arrested on April 28, 2020, reportedly for a Facebook post in which he insulted Prophet Muhammad (SWA). It was learnt group of Muslims had filed a petition to the authorities accusing Bala of posting uncomplimentary messages about Islam on social media.

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9. December a federal court in the capital, Abuja, ruled that Bala’s detention was unconstitutional and ordered authorities in Kano to either charge Bala with a crime under secular law or release him.

Editor’s note: There are two conflicting accounts regarding the prison term handed Mubarak Bala. Some media reports stated that it is 24 years while others said it is 45 years.

Lawyer objected to Bala's guilty plea

Earlier, reported that Bala's lawyer James Ibor objected to the guilty plea and asked the judge if he could talk to his client, a request that was accepted.

"I wanted to be sure he was under no influence or intimidation," Ibor said, and that his client understood "the implication of his plea."

When the court resumed, the defence counsel said its client wanted to change the plea which it believed was the result of frustration after two years in custody. But Bala rejected his own lawyer's statement, and again pleaded guilty.


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