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Bauchi Woman Released After 19 Months In Prison For Alleged Blasphemy

Daud Olatunji

Rhoda Jatau, a woman from Bauchi, who faced imprisonment for expressing condemnation of the alleged killing of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto State, has finally been granted freedom after spending 19 months behind bars on charges of blasphemy.

Jatau’s release on bail came on Friday, orchestrated through the collaborative efforts of civil society organizations, family members, and religious bodies.

 Her husband confirmed the release but refrained from commenting on the matter, denying journalists access to Jatau for the time being.

Her bail application, presented by her lawyer Joseph Danboyi, was successfully heard and granted by Justice Fatima Jibrin of a high court in Bauchi. 

Following her release, Rhoda promptly left Bauchi for Gombe State.

The international rights group, Peace Building and Social Justice, highlighted Jatau’s case on its X platform, emphasizing that she had been held for 19 months for condemning the murder of Deborah Samuel, a young schoolgirl, over alleged blasphemy. 

Rhoda Jatau, a Christian and a mother of five, is scheduled for her next hearing on the 19th of December 2023.

Prior to her release, the Executive Director of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in Bauchi issued a statement revealing that Jatau was apprehended on May 20, 2022, at her residence by the Nigerian Police Force on charges of alleged incitement and inciting public disturbance.

CITAD stated, “The police action was based on their perception of what her message could do. Immediately after sharing the post, she was arrested and taken into custody. 

Her bail was consistently denied, and she has been held behind bars ever since. This is not just an injustice to Rhoda; it is an attack on the digital rights of every citizen in this country.”

As Rhoda Jatau steps back into freedom, her case continues to draw attention to the intersection of free expression, religious beliefs, and digital rights in Nigeria, prompting calls for her unconditional release and raising broader questions about the protection of citizens’ rights in the digital age.

 

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