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Islamic Court in Nigeria Upholds Death Penalty for Adultery - 2002-08-19

An Islamic appeals court in Nigeria's northern Katsina state has rejected an appeal by a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Lawyers for Amina Lawal, 31, had hoped to convince the appeals court in the northern Nigerian town of Funtua that she was not guilty because, they said, she was tried under a law that had not yet gone into effect when she committed the alleged offense.

Ms. Lawal, who is divorced, was sentenced to death last March after she gave birth to a child without being married, an action that is considered adultery under Sharia and is punishable by death.

Lawyers argued the child was conceived before Sharia went into effect in Katsina, one of 12 states in northern Nigeria that have adopted the Islamic code in recent years despite protests by the secular federal government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Imposition of Amina Lawal's sentence will be delayed until after her eight-month-old baby daughter is weaned.

Ms. Lawal had earlier said she would accept the verdict, saying she was ready to submit to what she believes would be the will of God. Witnesses in the courtroom on Monday said Ms. Lawal remained calm, but cried as the Islamic judge read his decision.

Ms. Lawal's attorneys said they are prepared to further appeal the sentence, and may take the case to as far as the Nigerian supreme court.

Amina Lawal is the second Nigerian woman to be sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The first was Saffiya Husseini, who was acquitted earlier this year.

Both cases have prompted protests by international human rights and women's groups, especially in the United States and Europe.

The implementation of Sharia in some states has strained relations between Nigeria's northern Muslims and Christians from the south. Its reintroduction two years ago has sparked a number of religious and ethnic clashes that have killed thousands of people.