Blasphemy: Court reduces Mubarak Bala’s 24-year sentence to five years

A Court of Appeal in Kano State has reduced the 24-year sentence handed to an atheist, Mubarak Bala to a period of five years.

Recall that a Kano State High Court sitting in Audu Bako sentenced Bala, the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, to 24 years imprisonment for committing blasphemy against Allah and Prophet Muhammad.

It was gathered on Monday, May 13, that the Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to five years in prison.

His lawyer, James Ibor, told journalists that they were “grateful the court agreed with us that the sentence was against the law”.

“The full judgement will be published later this week so until then, I don’t have much to say,” Bala’s counsel said.

He, however, added that his legal team was interested in knowing the position of the court regarding Bala’s challenge over the jurisdiction of the court, despite his guilty plea.

Humanists International had said it had reason to believe this plea was made under duress.

Bala instructed his lawyers to appeal on four grounds listed: “Lack of jurisdiction of the Kano State High Court; the Judge’s predisposition to convict as indicated in the delivery of his ruling; failure to accord Bala the benefits of a guilty plea and misapplication of law in sentencing Bala to consecutive terms.” 

Humanists International on its website said it “believes that Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala has been targeted solely for his peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of religion or belief, and expression”. 

It had urged the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment of the trial Court and uphold Bala’s appeal, quashing his conviction and facilitating his immediate and unconditional release.

Prior to the 2022 sentence, Bala made the headlines in 2020 when he was arrested at his residence in Kaduna over alleged blasphemy and incitement.

Bala later appealed the 24-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to charges of ‘causing a public disturbance’. 

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