Rhoda Jatau, a Christian woman detained in Nigeria for 18 months on charges of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, was released on bail on Friday, her lawyer Kola Alapini told AFP on Sunday.
The mother-of-five, who works in the medical sector, was arrested in May 2022 in the northeastern city of Warji after posting a message online that was deemed blasphemous by Muslim residents, police said at the time. Several of them had set fire to homes and administrative buildings to express their anger, while Rhoda Jatau was taken into custody.
Jatau's online post condemned the killing days earlier of Deborah Samuel, a Christian student from the northwestern city of Sokoto, by her Muslim colleagues who accused her of spreading a blasphemous message against the prophet of Islam. The murder of Deborah Samuel had caused a stir among Christians in Nigeria and abroad.
Blasphemy punishable by death
Rhoda Jatau was released on bail by the Bauchi High Court on charges of alleged blasphemy," Kola Alapini told AFP. "This is a positive development and a step towards his full freedom," said Kola Alapini, who heads the Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit based in Abuja, Nigeria's capital. Rhoda Jatau was released on Friday in a low-key court session to avoid crowds and possible riots, given the public interest in her trial.
His case was raised at the UN Human Rights Council in July and at the European Parliament in October. In Nigeria, blasphemy is punishable by death under Sharia law, which applies in 12 Muslim-majority states, alongside ordinary law. In many cases, the accused are killed by mobs without going through the judicial process.
Tensions are generally high between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, whose population of more than 210 million is roughly split between the two faiths.