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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Pakistan defers stoning sentence
Pakistan Supreme Court
The case could go all the way to the Supreme Court
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By Susannah Price
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

A court in Pakistan has suspended the sentence of stoning to death passed against a woman convicted of adultery.

Human-rights groups had strongly criticised the sentence and demanded the immediate release of the convicted woman, Zafran Bibi.

Muslim women in Pakistan
Rights groups say Sharia contravenes women's rights
The case will now be heard by the highest court on Islamic issues, the federal Sharia court in Islamabad, although no date has yet been given.

On Saturday, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said such a sentence had never been carried out and should never be carried out.

Human-rights groups in Pakistan say the Islamic laws which were applied in this case discriminate against women and lead to thousands being tortured, accused and jailed each year.

Sharia laws

Zafran Bibi originally went to the police two years ago to register a case of rape, but she herself was instead charged with having an adulterous affair.

She gave birth to a son while her husband was in prison and a court in the conservative town of Kohat in North-West Frontier Province found her guilty of adultery.

She is currently in jail in the town with her seven-month-old baby and has not been allowed to meet human-rights groups or journalists.

A judge in Peshawar suspended the sentence and her appeal will be heard by a full bench of the Islamic or Sharia court in Islamabad.

President Musharraf said they would never allow this sentence to be carried out, but he did not give any further comment on whether he would consider repealing such laws.

There have been a few cases in which women have been sentenced to be stoned to death but none has been carried out.

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