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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Amina Lawal campaign 'unhelpful'
Amina Lawal
Ms Lawal's appeal has three courts to go through yet
A group acting on behalf of Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to be stoned to death after being found guilty of committing adultery, has expressed dismay at a recent campaign to quash her conviction.

The campaign was triggered by reports that Ms Lawal had lost her appeal in the Nigerian supreme court and had been sentenced to die on 3 June.

This was subsequently denied by, among others, the Nigerian embassy in Washington and groups on Amina's behalf.

"I don't know how [the reports] originated - they're all over the internet, there are a great many of them," Dr Ayesha Imam, from women's human rights group Baobab - who are campaigning to defend Ms Lawal - told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"It has been suggested that they might come from mistranslations of appeals for international petitions.

"All I know is that there are far too many of them."

Past cases quashed

In actual fact, the 3 June date is only the first day of Ms Lawal's appearance at the first of potentially three appeal courts - her own state, Federal Sharia, and eventually the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

But Dr Imam said she did not believe the case would go that far.

"We're hoping that she won't be unsuccessful because the Sharia state court of appeal is where all the other cases whose appeals we have helped to put forward have actually been quashed."

Stop campaigning

And she added that her group was calling for a halt in the international campaign for Ms Lawal's immediate release.

"Because of the circumstances in Nigeria today, which are very volatile, we felt that having a big international campaign and protest letters that were based on inaccurate information and not very carefully worded, would actually be more damaging than helpful.

If pardons come as a result of international political pressure, then it's hard to say to people it was their right all along
Dr Aisha Imam
"We decided that we had to put out an international appeal trying to clarify the situation and asking people not, at this moment, to participate in international protest campaigns."

Dr Imam said that while international campaigns could be extremely productive, she felt this one was not appropriate anymore.

"We're not against all international campaigns, but they're not necessarily suited to every single situation," she said.

"We need to pay attention to people who are directly involved in the situation on the ground - and the wishes of the people whose rights we are trying to defend."

Human rights culture

And she stressed that she felt it was important that Ms Lawal was released by the courts without the aid of international pressure.

"On the one hand, what we're saying is that we don't need it right now," she said.

"But the second - and I think more important - reason is that when we fight a case through the Sharia court of appeal - and win cases, as we have done - then it says to people 'these people should never have been convicted - the conviction was wrong'.

"You have therefore demonstrated that people have a right to appeal against injustices, whether or not they are made in the name of Sharia.

"If pardons come as a result of international political pressure, then it's hard to say to people it was their right all along - what they is that somebody stronger than you forced you to back down.

"That doesn't help to build a culture with the respect of human rights."


SEE ALSO:
Nigerian stoning trial delay
25 Mar 03  |  Africa
Analysis: Nigeria's Sharia split
07 Jan 03  |  Africa


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