Christian Entity Rallying for Protests against Harsh Sentencing of Nigerian Activist

Mubarak Bala. Credit: CSW

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights agency, is appealing to people who support the right to freedoms of expression and religion to participate in an ongoing protest against what the entity has referred to as a harsh sentencing of an activist in Nigeria.

Earlier this month, a High Court in Nigeria’s Kano State sentenced Mubarak Bala, the president of the Nigerian Humanist Society to 24 years behind bars on blasphemy charges, a decision that CSW described as a “gross violation” of the right to the freedoms of expression.

In a Monday, April 25 report, CSW reported that plans to protest the Nigerian court order are already underway and called for more support to push for the release of the activist.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, in reference to the planned protests, “We fully endorse the protest and support calls for Mr. Bala’s sentence to be overturned and for Nigeria’s blasphemy laws to be repealed.”

“We encourage all those who support the right to freedoms of expression and religion or belief to participate in this protest in solidarity with of Mr. Bala and his family, and to send a message to the Nigerian authorities that no one should be harassed and imprisoned on account of their religion or belief,” Mr. Mervyn said.


Mubarak Bala who converted from Islam has been detained since 28 April 2020, when he was arrested at his home in Nigeria’s Kaduna State following a petition to the Kano State Police Commissioner by a law firm in Kano, accusing him of insulting Islam in Facebook posts. 

At the April 5 sentencing, Mr. Bala was convicted of 18 counts of causing public disturbance under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code.

CSW reports that following his arrest in 2020, the Nigerian activist was transported to Kano State where he was held incommunicado for the first 162 days of his detention, was denied access to his legal team for five months, and spent 462 days in prison before being formally charged. 

Mr. Bala, 37, was reportedly denied medical care and forced to worship “the Islamic way.”

During the hearing on April 5, the activist is said to have pleaded guilty to all 18 charges against the advice of his lawyer and reportedly asked for leniency, stating his Facebook posts were not intended to cause offense, and that he would take care not to repeat the error.

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Nevertheless, the presiding judge, Justice Faruk Lawan, who reportedly warned Mr. Bala that his rights ended where those of others began, handed down the 24-year sentence.

In July 2021, a group of UN experts described Mr. Bala’s arrest and detention as amounting to the “persecution of non-believers in Nigeria.”

In the April 25 report, Mr. Mervyn described the sentencing of Mr. Bala as “a grave miscarriage of justice.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.