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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Reprieve for Nigerian adultery convict
Muslims schoolgirls in Nigeria
The sexes are frequently segregated under Sharia
A Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery will be free to look after her child until January 2004, whatever the outcome of her appeal, an Islamic court ruled on Monday.

The ruling was greeted by the lawyer defending Amina Lawal as a sign that the verdict, which will be delivered on 8 July, will lean towards acquitting his client.


We are optimistic our appeal will be successful

Defence lawyer Aliuy Musa Yawuri
In March, Amina Lawal, 30, was sentenced to death for becoming pregnant after her divorce, which is considered as adultery under Nigeria's interpretation of the Islamic law, or Sharia.

On the same day, another Nigerian woman, Safiya Huseini, who had been convicted for adultery and sentenced to be stoned, was freed on appeal after pressure was exerted by the international community and the Nigerian government.

The court in Funtua, in Nigeria's northern state of Katsina, has entered a phase of "substantial deliberations" and will "probably take all the time it deems necessary before delivering its verdict in a case `as politicised' as this one", sources close to the defence told the Spanish news agency EFE.

Amputated man
Thieves risk having their hands cut off under Sharia

Ms Lawal, who has been staying in a home for women while awaiting the verdict in her case, will be allowed to return to her village to look after her baby daughter Wasila until January 2004, when her male relatives are required to bring her back to court.

Her lawyer, Aliyu Musu Yawuri, said that the court's decision to grant his client freedom for the next 19 months was a positive sign.

"We are optimistic our appeal will be successful," Mr Yawuri told the French news agency AFP.

"I don't entertain any fears that my client will not be freed at the end of the trial," he added.

Sharia law has been adopted by 12 of the 36 states of Nigeria over the last two years.


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