A court in Nigeria has sentenced atheist Mubarak Bala to 24 years in prison after being convicted of blaspheming Islam through his social media posts.
Bala, the 37-year-old president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, pleaded guilty to all 18 charges and asked for leniency from the high court in the northern state of Kano.
He has been in detention since 2020 after a group of Muslims had filed a petition to the authorities accusing Bala of posting uncomplimentary messages about Islam on social media.
Kano has a majority Muslim population. It is one of around a dozen states in northern Nigeria where Islamic law is practised alongside secular laws.
Bala could have faced the death penalty if he was tried in an Islamic court.
UN human rights experts and international rights groups had condemned his detention and called for his release.
Bala renounced his Islamic faith in 2014. He was then reportedly taken to a psychiatric hospital before being discharged.
He was arrested in 2020 in neighbouring Kaduna state, and transferred to Kano, his home state.
Nigeria is Africa’s most-populous country and most people in its mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south are deeply religious. (Source: BBC)