Mubarak Bala
Mubarak Bala (Photo credit: IHEU)

Last week, Nigerian ex-Muslim Mubarak Bala was released from a psychiatric ward at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in the north of Nigeria, having spent 18 days in detention, where he was medicated and refused the right to communicate with the outside world.

Mubarak says he was detained on account of his open atheism (his father was one of those involved in having him placed in hospital), and he was only able to get word to secular activists in Nigeria and beyond by using a hidden mobile phone, which was eventually confiscated by hospital staff. One of those he was able to contact was the American blogger Courtney Heard (@godless_mom on Twitter), who explained in an interview with New Humanist last week how she helped to highlight Bala's predicament.

Upon learning of Bala's detention, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Lagos Humanists and Skeptics worked to verify his story, and instructed a lawyer based in Kano to press the authorities to reassess his case. He was released last Tuesday, but this was not publicly disclosed until Friday, when IHEU and others who campaigned for his release could be sure that he was safe.

Following his release, Bala issue a statement thanking those who had helped him while he was detained:

“I thank you all for the concern and advice. To those who have made threats against me, I urge you to reason and learn to tolerate opinions other than yours. Education and free speech cannot be cured, but love for humanity is our panacea, we share the same destiny. All that I have said is in good will that we may all prosper and learn the facts of life.”

Bala has received death threats over his atheism, and he is currently staying in a secure location.