A Bauchi State health care worker, Rhoda Jatau, has regained her freedom after spending a harrowing 18 months in incarceration for condemning the killing of Samuel Deborah in Sokoto State.
Jatau was released on bail on Friday following interventions by human rights activists, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council and the Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria.
“We are pleased to report that Mrs Rhoda has been granted bail and subsequently released from detention today. We have high hopes that the case will end in praise. Let’s continue to uphold her in our prayers. The leadership of NIREC played a key role. Praise be to our God”, an official confirmed on Friday.
SaharaReporters had in November reported that Jatau was arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in May 2022 after she shared a video that condemned the lynching of the Christian female student of Sokoto College, Deborah Samuel, accused of blasphemy by Islamic fanatics in Sokoto.
Jatau had faced charges of inciting public disturbance, “exciting contempt of religious creed,” and cyberstalking.
The prosecution had since closed its case but the defence’s attempt to present its no-case argument was repeatedly stalled as the presiding judge defers court dates and the trial experiences a prolonged timeline.
The submission was eventually made on October 16 at a hearing witnessed by Jatau’s husband, Ya’u Adamu, and other observers.
The court had earlier admitted the interpretation of Jatau sharing of a social media video as offensive to extant laws and her lawyers would now work to prove that her action was justified rather than the initial stance that her action did not constitute the offences alleged.
Her arrest and prolonged detention had raised international concerns with the United Nations and organisations such as Christian Solidarity International expressing worry.
They had contended that Jatau’s incarceration represents an infringement on her fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion or belief.
Of concern is the repeated denial of bail to Jatau. The United Nations and CSI underscore that the denial of bail not only restricts her freedom but also raises questions about the fairness and proportionality of the legal measures taken against her.
Deborah, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was brutally murdered after advising against sending religious materials on a WhatsApp page.