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Court Releases Nigerian Woman Sentenced to Death For Adultery

An Islamic court in Nigeria's northern Katsina state has ordered the temporary release of Amina Lawal, a 30-year-old woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery.

Amina Lawal was the second Nigerian woman to receive such a sentence under the Islamic code, Sharia, which has been re-introduced in 12 of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim northern states over the past two years.

Ms. Lawal was condemned to death in March, when she was convicted of giving birth to a child after she had been divorced. Under Sharia, the action is considered adultery.

Her sentencing came at about the same time that a Sharia court in neighboring Sokoto state acquitted Saffiya Husseini, another woman who had been convicted on similar charges last year. Ms. Husseini's case triggered outrage among women's rights groups in Europe and the United States.

Amina Lawal's attorneys filed an appeal on her behalf. The appeal was to have been examined by an Islamic court in the city of Funtua, in Katsina state, on Monday. But instead, the court decided to postpone its verdict until July 8, ruling that Ms. Lawal be allowed to go free until next year. The ruling was intended to allow Ms. Lawal to care for her child.

Attorneys for Ms. Lawal leaving the court said the decision to release her, at least temporarily, made them optimistic that she would eventually be acquitted, just as Saffiya Husseini was.

The implementation of Sharia has caused friction in Nigeria and triggered ethnic and religious clashes that have claimed thousands of lives in the past two years. It has also widened a rift between the predominantly Muslim northern states and the officially secular federal government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.