Christian mother of 5 released on bail after 19 months in Nigerian prison


Rhoda Jatau pictured with her family before her imprisonment for a WhatsApp message. (Photo: ADF International)

After being imprisoned for over 500 days in Nigeria, a Christian mother of five has been released on bail and awaits a trial that could land her up to five more years behind bars if she is found guilty of “blasphemy.” 

Devout Nigerian believer Rhoda Jatau is reportedly safe after spending 19 months in prison. According to ADF International, she is currently in an undisclosed location while she awaits trial for allegedly sharing a video that condemned the lynching of Christian college student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, which critics called “blasphemous.”

Yakubu was a college student who attended a university in the northwestern Sokoto state who was falsely accused of blaspheming Islam after she posted a message on social media thanking Jesus for helping her pass an exam. 

Following her post, the college student was targeted, set on fire and murdered by classmates for sharing her Christian faith. 

Outraged by the killing of a Christian college student, Jatau took to WhatsApp to condemn the murder of Yakubu in 2022.

In response to her outward expression, a mob targeted the mother of five and had her arrested for “blasphemy.” Jatau was put in prison in May 2022. 

Although she has previously been denied bail multiple times, a judge in Bauchi state recently granted bail to Jatau following an international outcry over her imprisonment.

Jatau’s trial will likely resume on Dec. 19. But due to holiday schedules, her trial start date might be pushed into 2024. 

ADF International, a Christian legal advocacy group that describes itself as working to “contend for the truth in law, policy and the public square,” is supporting Jatau.

The Christian mother is being charged under sections 114 (public disturbance) and 210 (religious insult) of the Bauchi state penal code.

“We are glad to see that Rhoda Jatau finally has been granted bail after being denied it for so long,” Sean Nelson, legal counsel for ADF International, said in a statement.

“No person should be punished for peaceful expression, and international religious freedom advocates must continue to speak up on Rhoda’s behalf. We will continue to seek justice for Rhoda, and we are hopeful that the unjust charges against her will be dropped completely.” 

A Nigerian ADF International allied lawyer serving as lead counsel on Jatau’s case is happy to see Jatau receive bail after 19 months. 

“We thank all who have been praying for Rhoda, and we ask for your continued prayers as her case continues,” the lawyer, whose full name has not been disclosed, said. 

Considering the prevalence of blasphemy cases like Jatau and Yakhubu in northern Nigeria, United Nations experts issued a letter to the Nigerian government in October warning that blasphemy laws infringe on international human rights standards. The letter came in response to appeals from religious freedom advocacy organizations. 

In the letter, which is signed by five special rapporteurs, the U.N. emphasized Jatau’s imprisonment as being an “unjust violation of human rights.” 

The ADF report also shared that cases such as Jatau’s and Yakubu’s are not isolated occurrences in Nigeria, especially in the northern regions where there is widespread violence against religious minorities.  

The persecution of Christians in Nigeria is increasingly severe, with over 90% of the 5,500 Christians who were killed worldwide for their faith last year being Nigerian, according to persecution watchdog Open Doors. 

“The criminalization of blasphemy in Nigeria carries with it dangerous implications for the country as a whole. In a country of more than 200 million, split nearly evenly between Christians and Muslims, blasphemy laws are a significant driver of societal tensions,” ADF summarized in its report.  

“These laws punish the innocent for expressing their beliefs, silence people from sharing their faith and perpetuate societal violence. Blasphemy laws throughout Nigeria encourage brutal mob violence and inflict severe harm on minority Muslims, Christian converts and others.”   

ADF International is also supporting the legal defense of another Nigerian man, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim musician who was sentenced to death by hanging after sharing song lyrics that were allegedly “blasphemous” on WhatsApp. 

With ADF International’s backing and support, Sharif-Aminu is appealing his case to the Supreme Court of Nigeria with the hope of overturning the death penalty blasphemy laws in Nigeria. 

Yahaya remains behind bars in a prison as he awaits his appeal. He has been imprisoned for more than 3.5 years.  

“Yahaya’s treatment violates both the Nigerian Constitution and international law. No one should be sentenced to death for freely expressing their religious views, and we are working to ensure that Yahaya is released and the blasphemy law ended. It cannot stand,” said Yahaya’s lawyer in his case, Kola Alapinni, in a statement.

Courtesy of The Christian Post.





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