A Nigerian atheist, Mubarak Bala has been sentenced to 24 years in jail on Tuesday after pleading guilty to blasphemy charges in the largely Muslim northern state of Kano, in a ruling that places much importance on religious freedoms in the country.
It was gathered that his charges were linked to comments he posted on Facebook in April 2020 that were critical of Islam and which authorities in Kano considered blasphemous and an insult to the religion.
When asked by Kano High Court Judge Farouk Lawan whether he had been coerced to enter a guilty plea to the 18 charges, Bala said he did so of his own free will.
Bala’s lawyer, James Ibor, said Tuesday’s sentencing was “very outrageous” and could be challenged.
“The sentence infringes his right as an atheist,” Ibor asserted.
Meanwhile, Bala, who is the head of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in the northern Kaduna state two years ago and was then moved to neighbouring Kano, a majority Muslim and conservative state.