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Nigerian Woman to Become Honorary Citizen of Rome - 2002-09-07

A Nigerian woman who was sentenced to death, but later acquitted, by an Islamic court is to be made an honorary citizen of Rome. A vast public outcry in the Italian capital helped save the woman who broke Sharia law.

Italians were outraged when Safiya Hussaini was sentenced by an Islamic court in northern Nigeria to death by stoning for having committed adultery. They held protests and candle-lit vigils outside the Nigerian embassy in Rome to voice their concern. Many signed petitions for her to be pardoned and released.

Sharia law, which was introduced in the majority of Nigeria's northern states in recent years, punishes crimes like adultery harshly. Although the Nigerian federal government regards the application of Sharia law as unconstitutional, so far it has not acted against it.

Safiya's case was appealed and following huge international mobilization in her favor, she was acquitted. She arrived in Rome Saturday and will receive honorary citizenship in a ceremony to be held at City Hall on Monday.

Nigerian embassy officials greeted Safiya at Rome's Fiumicino airport where she arrived on a flight from Lagos with her child in her arms. She followed instructions by embassy officials and made no statements on arrival.

Safiya will answer questions on Monday after receiving her honorary title during a press conference between Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni and Nigeria's Ambassador to Italy, Chief Etim Jack Okpoyo.

Mr. Veltroni is urging Romans to mobilize a campaign for another Nigerian woman, Amina Lawal, who has been sentenced to death for becoming pregnant after having been divorced by her husband. An Islamic appeal court has upheld the sentence, but her lawyers are planning an appeal to a higher court.