Kano – Nigerian atheist activist Mubarak Bala, detained in April 2020, was sentenced on Tuesday to 24 years after pleading guilty to 18 charges in a blasphemy case.
The 37-year-old was accused of writing Facebook posts criticising Islam and its prophet, which the court said were capable of breaching public peace in Nigeria’s conservative Muslim north where sharia law is enforced alongside common law.
“The court hereby sentences Muhammad Mubarak Bala to 24 years… This will take into consideration the time he served awaiting trial,” Kano-based judge Faruk Lawan said.
His lawyer James Ibor objected to the guilty plea and asked the judge if he could talk to his client, a request that was accepted.
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“I wanted to be sure he was under no influence or intimidation,” Ibor said, and that his client understood “the implication of his plea.”
But when the court resumed, Bala again pled guilty.
Looking in good health as he appeared in court in a white short-sleeve shirt, he said he was “pleading for mercy and leniency.”
“The intention of the posts was not to cause violence but I have realised they are capable of causing violence. I will take care in the future,” said Bala.
The judge asked the defendant if he was pressured to plead guilty or promised anything if he did so, to which Bala said no.
The plea cannot be changed but Ibor said he could decide to appeal the length of the sentence.
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