Nearly 90 organizations joined forces in late April to pressure officials in the Nigerian state of Kano to release a Humanist activist who has been in prison for a year facing a blasphemy charge.

Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested on April 28, 2020, at his home in the state of Kaduna. He was subsequently transferred to Kano state, where he has been held since.

Bala is accused of posting items to Facebook that allegedly insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was denied access to his legal team for several months and has yet to be officially charged with a crime.

The organizations assert that Bala’s detainment is illegal under Nigerian law. A judge has ruled that he should be released on bail, but officials in Kano have ignored the ruling.

In a letter to Kano state Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the groups wrote, “The undersigned organizations fear that Mr. Bala is being targeted solely for his exercise of his rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory. We urge you to uphold your duty to respect fundamental freedoms and to release Mubarak Bala immediately without conditions.”

Groups signing the letter include the American Humanist Association, Electronic Frontiers Foundation, the National Secular Society, PEN International and the Alliance for Secular Nigeria.


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