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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 11:46 GMT
Nigerian stoning trial delay

By Dan Isaacs
BBC, Nigeria

An appeal, due to begin in northern Nigeria for a Muslim woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, has been postponed because the judges failed to turn up.

Amina Lawal and child
Amina could be involved in a long drawn out process
The case of Amina Lawal, has provoked strong opposition from human rights organisations across the world, many of whom sent representatives to attend the hearing.

Strict criminal punishments such as this have been introduced as part of Sharia or Islamic legal code over the past three years in the majority-Muslim states of northern Nigeria.

Although there are currently at least three adultery convictions under appeal, no stoning has yet been carried out in Nigeria

Convenient delay

Amina Lawal was found guilty by a court in March last year after bearing a child outside marriage.

1999 elections
Tensions are high with elections scheduled in April
Under strict Islamic laws now in place in northern Nigeria, this was sufficient for her to be convicted of the crime of adultery and sentenced to the mandatory punishment of death by stoning.

Amina's appeal has now been delayed until after next month¿s elections.

Although no reason was given for the failure of the judges to turn up, the clear inference being made is that the decision was political.

That is because the holding of such a case during election campaigning could have inflamed tensions, never far from the surface, between Muslims and Christians.

Over the past three years, violent confrontations over the issue of Islamic law have led to the deaths of many thousands of people in street protests in Nigeria¿s northern cities.

Strict Islamic punishments - such as stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, and flogging for the possession of alcohol - apply only to the Muslim population.

But many Christians feel angered and threatened by what they see as the increasing Islamisation of the majority-Muslim north of the country.

As for the woman at the centre of this case, Amina Lawal, she will have to wait until early June for her appeal to be heard.

If she loses that, her lawyers can take her case on to the High Court in the capital Abuja, and finally if that fails, to the federal Supreme Court.

This has a very long drawn out process for her.

But as Amina, a devout Muslim, told me ahead of her appeal, she is strong in her belief that she will be acquitted, and that her fate is now firmly in God¿s hands.




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