Mubarak Bala mental hospital Nigeria
Mubarak Bala has been held in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, in Kano State, since June 13IHEU

A Nigerian man has been detained against his will in a mental institution after declaring he was an atheist.

Mubarak Bala, 29, has been held in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, in Kano State, since 13 June. He was able to raise the alarm about his forced detention by communicating with activists via email and social media.

Bala explained that his family ordered a mental illness test after he told them he was not a Muslim.

"The biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of 'history' of Adam, and apostacy [sic], to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God," he wrote.

"And my brother added that all the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life."

After Bala was detained, posts appeared on his Facebook profile claiming that he was now a Muslim again. However he has disowned the posts.

"The fact that immediately I'm sedated they could take my phone and post [on Facebook] the Islamic Shahada proved their real intent, and family members have been wailing that I'm bound for hell, so they had to make a move," he wrote.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) instructed a lawyer to visit Bala at the hospital. The Union expressed its concerns for the human rights violation the man had been subjected to and for his deteriorating condition.

According to a statement on Reddit, "his [Bala's] father is a politically powerful individual who has had him committed, against the advice of a medical professional. He is an Islamist supporter of Boko Haram."

Bamidele Adeneye, secretary of the Lagos Humanists (an IHEU member organisation), said Bala's case was not an isolated episode.

"People are forcefully oppressed just because of their beliefs or for conservative religious reasons, or for the "honour" of their family," he told IHEU.

"Often though you only hear about it afterwards, if at all. This is a rare chance to intervene while someone is in dire need and is still alive."

IHEU communications officer Bob Churchill said that "a warped notion of family honour is the motivation to pressure Mubarak ... to conform to religious views that he simply doesn't hold".

Many people have taken to social media demanding justice for Bala.

A #FreeMubarak twitter campaign and a Change.org petition have been set up to publicise the case.