An Islamic court in Nigeria's Sokoto state has acquitted a woman accused of having sexual relations outside marriage, a crime under the state's sharia law. The woman's neighbors brought her to the attention of police after she gave birth to a child several weeks ago.
Islamic sharia law was introduced in the northern state of Sokoto two years ago. Under the law, pregnancy outside marriage is a crime punishable by whipping.
In his decision, which was handed down late Wednesday, Judge Bawa Shabi Tambuwal said he had taken into account the fact that the mother, Hafsatu Abubakar, had revised her original statement.
At first, Ms. Abubakar said she had never been married. But later she withdrew that statement, avowing that she had been married and was now divorced, but that the baby's father was in fact her ex-husband.
In most interpretations of sharia law, a divorced woman is guilty of adultery if she has sex before re-marrying. But according to the interpretation of the law in Sokoto, a woman cannot be guilty of adultery if she gives birth to a child by her ex-husband for up to seven years after the marriage is dissolved.
The judge's decision evoked cheers from Ms. Abubakar's supporters in the court.
As she left the courthouse, the young woman told reporters she thanked God, for giving her the strength to go on.
This is the second case in Sokoto state against a woman who is accused of having sex outside marriage. In October, Safiya Husseini was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. She has appealed her conviction and her case is due to come before the courts in March.
Many Western governments and human-rights groups have called for Nigeria's officially secular federal government to intervene on her behalf.