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Nigerian Christian woman freed after 19 months in detention for alleged blasphemy


Rhoda Ya;u-Jatau

Rhoda Jatau, the Christian woman accused of sharing a video on WhatsApp condemning the lynching of a student of Sokoto College of Education, Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, has been granted bail and released from detention.

Mrs Jatau was freed on Friday December 8 following the reported intervention of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), and Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria

Deborah, a 200 level student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, had been killed and lynched by a mob in May last year for alleged blasphemy.

Mrs Jatau was arrested, held incommunicado and repeatedly denied bail. She was only allowed occasional access to her counsel and family during court appearances.

She was accused of blasphemy which reportedly provoked a riot. She was charged for “inciting public disturbance, exciting contempt of religious creed and cyberstalking” under section 114, 210 of the Penal Code Law and Section 24 subsection 1b(i) of Cybercrime Prohibition Prevention Act 2015 Laws.

Late in November, the 45-year-old mother of five, who had been in detention since May 20, 2022, was denied freedom by a court judge of the state High Court in Bauchi, North East Nigeria, following his refusal to dismiss the case.

A human rights group, ADF International, had disclosed that when the case came up for hearing, Mrs Jatau’s counsel had argued that the prosecutor could not establish the basic elements of their case against her, however, the court said it would proceed with the trial.

ADF International legal counsel, Sean Nelson, condemned the prosecution and detention of the woman, describing it as a “travesty of justice.” He said Mrs Jatau’s needs prayers for her release.

The case comes up on December 19. If convicted, Jatau faces up to five years in jail.

Her employers, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD, Bauchi chapter confirmed her release. Mujahid Ibrahim, the Programme Officer, confirmed the development.

The cases of Jatau and Deborah are among the numerous allegations of blasphemy in northern Nigeria dominated by Muslims.

Nigeria, a country of over 200 million, is ranked by Christian Watchdog, Open Doors, among 50 nations of the world where it is most difficult to serve Jesus Christ.

Another group, International Christian Concern, said in its 2021 Report that 50,000 to 70,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria since 2000.

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