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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 15:03 GMT
Nigeria stoning decision delayed
Safiya Husseini with her child, outside court
Safiya's case has caused concern abroad
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By the BBC's Dan Isaacs
Sokoto, northern Nigeria

A woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by an Islamic court in Nigeria must wait a further week to know the outcome of her appeal.

The four judges at the Sokoto Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that a decision will be made on 25 March.

Others have committed worse crimes but have not been punished because they have influence in high places. But this is happening to me - a poor woman from a poor village

Safiya Husaini
Safiya Husaini's case has provoked widespread international concern and calls for clemency.

Harsh criminal punishments such as stoning, amputation and flogging have been introduced into the legal code in many of Nigeria's majority Muslim northern states over the past two years.

But although amputations have been carried out, no-one has yet been stoned to death.

Packed court

Dressed in a white turban with gold-trimmed black robes, the Grand Khadi, the most senior law officer in Sokoto, presided over a packed court.

Journalists jostled for room with representatives of human rights groups and at least a dozen defence lawyers squeezed themselves into the narrow benches.

Click here to tell us your views on the case

Safiya herself sat quietly in the corner, clutching Adama, her year-old child.

His regular bouts of crying were a constant reminder to those present of the reason for Safiya's conviction.

Pregnancy outside marriage in the Sharia states of northern Nigeria, even for a divorcee, can be considered as adultery and punishable by death.

Safiya told the BBC that she believed her social status was responsible for her current predicament.

"Others have committed worse crimes but have not been punished because they have influence in high places," she said.

Case 'flawed'

The judges quizzed the prosecution lawyer about the evidence that had led to Safiya's conviction.

Time after time the lawyer faltered over complex legal texts in Arabic.

Judge Mohammed Bello Sanyinlawal
Judge Mohammed Bello Sanyinlawal passed sentence last October

But the message was clear - that the prosecution case is deeply flawed and the judges were aware of it.

Not least of the prosecution's problems is that the alleged adultery took place before the new Sharia laws came into effect in Sokoto.

Nigeria's human rights record is on trial here and many in the federal government are uneasy at the publicity this case has drawn.

President Olusegun Obasanjo himself, who is a devout Christian, has made it clear he would prefer the sentence not to be carried out.

But even if Safiya wins her appeal next Monday, the punishment of stoning remains on the books in a dozen northern states here and it is surely only a matter of time before another case comes before the courts.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"A case that has provoked fierce debate within Nigeria"
Ravi Ibrahim, Nigerian muslim rights worker
"He should be punished too"
See also:

18 Mar 02 | Talking Point
Sharia Law: What do you think?
23 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigeria's 'adulteress' set free
19 Oct 01 | Africa
Nigerian appeals Sharia sentence
14 Sep 01 | Africa
Nigerian sentenced to stoning
14 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigeria stoning appeal delayed
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