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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Nigerian man faces death for adultery
Soldier and civilian during religious clashes in Jos, September 2001
The introduction of Sharia sparked religious clashes in Nigeria

An Islamic court in northern Nigeria has for the first time sentenced a man to death by stoning for adultery in a case likely to reopen the argument over the role of Sharia, or Islamic Law, in the modern world.

Safiya Husaini and baby Adama
Safiya Husaini won her appeal against a conviction for adultery

Yunusa Rafin Chiwaya was convicted of adultery by a Sharia court in the northeastern state of Bauchi.

He had admitted to having sex with his neighbour's wife.

Court officials say he declined repeated opportunities to withdraw his confession and so, as a result, he was convicted and sentenced to be stoned to death.

He now has 30 days to appeal against the sentence.

His lover was cleared of adultery after she swore on the Muslim holy book, the Koran, that she had been hypnotised when she left home with him.

Earlier this year, the plight of two women sentenced to death by Sharia courts in the mainly Muslim states of northern Nigeria provoked widespread international outrage.

Human rights criticism

In March - in the country's most high-profile Sharia case so far - a court in nearby Sokoto state overturned an earlier ruling that Safiya Husaini should be stoned to death for adultery.

Mosque
The latest case will open debate over the role of Islamic law in modern Nigeria

Another woman - who was also sentenced to death - has been given a two-year reprieve to allow her to wean her baby, regardless of the outcome of her appeal.

The introduction of strict Islamic law in much of the Muslim north two years ago has polarised opinion inside Nigeria itself and drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups.

Under the code, not only do adulterers face stoning to death but convicted thieves can have their hands amputated.

This latest case is likely to reopen the debate over the place of strict Islamic law in the culturally interdependent world of the 21st Century.

But this time at least, one of the usual elements of the debate is likely to be missing: the place of women within a strictly ordered Islamic society.


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