A Bauchi State health care worker, Rhoda Jatau, has regained her freedom after 18 months in incarceration for condemning the killing of Samuel Deborah in Sokoto State.
Jatau was released on bail on Friday following interventions by local and international human rights organisations and activists.
The International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice, a UK-based non-profit that helped coordinate advocacy for Mrs Jatau’s freedom, announced her release on conditional terms Friday night.
“We have just received confirmation that Rhoda Jatau has been released on bail to her family today,” the group said. “To everyone who lent their voice, time, finance and resources to support the #FreeRhoda campaign, this is a ray of victory for all of us.”
Mrs. Rhoda Ya’u, 45 a staff of the Primary Healthcare Board, Warji in Bauchi state has been held by the Bauchi authorities since her arrest on May 20 on allegations of blasphemy. She was arrested by the Nigerian Secret police in her hometown of Katanga Warji LGA after she forwarded a video on WhatsApp which was considered blasphemous. It was alleged that she forwarded a video to a WhatsApp group of her workplace, wherein a former Ghanaian Muslim was condemning the brutal lynching of a Christian college student – Deborah Emmanuel on May 12 in Sokoto State. Sources in Bauchi say Ya’u’s Muslim colleagues circulated the post, claiming she had blasphemed the Prophet, Muhammed.
The prosecution had since closed its case but the defense’s attempt to present its no-case argument was repeatedly stalled as the presiding judge defers court dates and the trial experiences a prolonged timeline. The submission was eventually made on October 16 at a hearing witnessed by Jatau’s husband, Ya’u Adamu, and other observers.
The court had earlier admitted the interpretation of Jatau sharing of a social media video as offensive to extant laws and her lawyers would now work to prove that her action was justified rather than the initial stance that her action did not constitute the offenses alleged.
Her arrest and prolonged detention have raised international concerns, with the United Nations and organisations such as Christian Solidarity International expressing worry. They contend that Jatau’s incarceration represents an infringement on her fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, or belief.
Of concern is the repeated denial of bail to Jatau. The United Nations and CSI underscore that the denial of bail not only restricts her freedom but also raises questions about the fairness and proportionality of the legal measures taken against her.
Deborah, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was brutally murdered after advising against sending religious materials on a WhatsApp page.