I share the concern raised for Mr Bala, sentenced to 24 years in prison on charges of blasphemy, and I will ensure that my ministerial colleagues at the FCDO are aware of the strength of public feeling on this matter.
The UK is committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. The UK regularly discusses the importance of FoRB with Nigeria, and works via multilateral fora, such as the UN and the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, to promote and protect FoRB for all, including in Nigeria.
The UK is very concerned by the use of blasphemy laws as they generally limit freedom of expression and regularly applies diplomatic pressure on countries that misuse them.
The UK High Commissioner has previously raised Mr Bala's case with the Nigerian Authorities on numerous occasions. I am assured that they will continue to stress the importance of Mr Bala being treated in full accordance with his human rights, the rule of law, and the Nigerian constitutional right to FoRB.
In relation to sanctions, it is not appropriate for me to speculate on potential future designations as to do so may undermine their effectiveness. I know that the Government keeps all evidence under close review.
Finally, the removal of Nigeria from the list of Violators of Religious Freedom is a matter for the Government of the United States of America alone.