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Nigeria’s ‘atheist with a cause’ still in jail after a year

Amina Ahmed, wife of a self-proclaimed atheist Mubarak Bala, has spoken up about her frustration over her husband who has been behind bars for close to a year.

Bala was arrested and detained by the police on April 28, 2020, and taken to an unknown destination, eight months after he married Ahmed.

The duo had met online and exchanged marital vows in an intimate ceremony.

Bala is reportedly accused of writing a Facebook post criticising Prophet Muhammad, an act regarded as blasphemy.

Bala is an engineer who worked for a power company in Kaduna. He is also president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, an organisation that describes itself as “the voice of humanism in Nigeria.”

The 36-year-old grew up in a traditional Muslim family, with a father who had three wives and a mother who had nine children. He, however, grew up to be irreligious, DailyMail reports.

With his message on social media pressing for religious freedom in the north which is predominantly Muslim, Bala is regarded by many as an “atheist with a cause”.

In 2014, he was forcibly admitted by his own family to a psychiatric ward for 18 days because he said he did not believe in God.

Ahmed who gave birth to a boy just a month before Bala was taken said she did not even know his whereabouts for the first six months.

She later discovered he had been taken to a prison in Kano, more than 200 kilometres away from where he was detained.

“When I finally heard his voice, it was like cold water being poured on me,” she said.

Bala’s legal team, in May 2020, filed a motion asking the Federal High Court for his release. The court gave the order for his release on bail in December. But it was never enforced.

Kano State Police Command told AFP that Bala was not in its custody and that the courts were in charge of the case.

His lawyers filed another petition in February to add more parties to the summons.

“I think the refusal to obey the court order is mischievous and illegal, but we are trying to close all gaps, to give them no excuse,” one of his lawyers James Ibor said.

Kano State attorney general did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment on the case. A hearing on the enforcement of the court order is scheduled for April 20.

“We have suffered enough. Whatever he has done, he should be charged, go on trial… I am not even asking for his release,” his wife said.

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