On the eve of Nigeria’s presidential transition, 11 members of Congress of the United States of America have written to outgoing President Buhari seeking his intervention to grant a pardon to imprisoned Nigerian humanist, Mubarak Bala.
President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, is currently serving a 24-year prison sentence following his conviction for causing a public disturbance under Sections 210 and 114 of the Kano State Penal Code, in connection with a series of Facebook posts deemed to be “blasphemous” by some. His trial was marred by numerous procedural irregularities, including being held without charge for more than a year. Mubarak Bala is currently appealing his conviction.
Nigerian law provides both the President and State governors the prerogative of pardon, permitting them to intervene by “dispensing the mercy of government,” particularly where the legal system fails to deliver a morally or politically acceptable result.
Writing to President Buhari the signatories stated: “On May 29, Nigeria will welcome a new president. However, the prosecution of Mubarak for exercising his freedom of religion or belief and his continued illegal detention weighs on your nation and your legacy. For now, it remains within your power to secure Mubarak’s release, thereby sending a profound message of support for human rights and the rule of law that will be heard all over the world.”
The letter follows Congressman Jamie Raskin’s sponsorship of Mubarak Bala through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s (Lantos Commission) Defending Freedoms Project. Rep. Raskin leads efforts in the U.S. Congress to free Bala and other prisoners of conscience globally.
Leo Igwe, Board Member of Humanists International, while commenting on the development said: “The global humanist community is grateful to Rep. Raskin and his colleagues at Congress in taking a stand for Mubarak Bala and the principles of freedom of religion or belief in Nigeria. We reiterate their urging for President Buhari to leave a legacy of respect for human rights and rule of law.”
Human rights groups and Humanists organisations fears that Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala is being targeted solely for having exercised his rights to freedom of belief and freedom of expression, which are protected under the Nigerian Constitution, and under international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.