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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 15:32 GMT
Nigerian 'Christian' in Sharia court
Man with amputated right hand
The introduction of Sharia has been controversial
A student has told an Islamic court in northern Nigeria that it cannot try him because he is a Christian, causing uncertainty over his fate.

The young man, Mohammed Ali, appeared in a Sharia court in the city of Sokoto last Friday, charged with theft.

In recent years, several northern Nigerian states have extended Sharia by incorporating its punishments into their penal codes, but Christians are not directly subject to Sharia laws.

The man is due to appear again this coming Friday, when the judge is expected to rule on his declaration.

But the judge has now told a BBC correspondent in Sokoto that he doubts the young man's word.

Praying for mercy

He says he saw him taking part in Muslim activities in prison.

The traditional Sharia punishment for stealing is amputation, and our correspondent says there is speculation that Mr Ali's motivation is to escape this.

Also in Sokoto, a woman is awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a conviction for adultery by a Sharia court.

Safiyatu Huseini
Safiyatu is still awaiting the outcome of her appeal

If the appeal fails, Safiyatu Huseini will be stoned to death.

The federal Minister of Justice, Bola Ige, has condemned the stoning verdict as "harsh and crude" and said that stoning to death must not happen in Nigeria in 2001.

There is unease among many Christians that the imposition of Islamic law in the northern states serves to enforce the political will of Muslim leaders over the substantial minority of non-Muslims living there.

Since the introduction of Sharia criminal punishments two years ago more than 3,000 people have been killed in Christian and Muslim clashes particularly in the north of the country.

See also:

19 Oct 01 | Africa
Nigerian appeals Sharia sentence
05 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
The death of a Nigerian village
14 Sep 01 | Africa
Nigerian sentenced to stoning
09 Sep 01 | Africa
Dozens killed in Nigeria violence
15 Oct 01 | Africa
Analysis: Nigeria's Sharia split
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