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Nigeria judges to rule today in stoning case

By Associated Press
Published September 25, 2003

KATSINA, Nigeria - Lawyers for a woman ordered stoned to death for having sex out of wedlock were confident Wednesday that a five-judge panel would spare her.

A decision on the appeal of Amina Lawal, a 32-year-old mother, is expected today in a case that has dragged on for more than a year and sparked international outcry.

If the sentence stands, Lawal could be the first woman stoned to death since states in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north adopted strict Islamic law, or sharia, in 1999.

Yet few believe the brutal punishment - in which Lawal would be buried up to her neck in sand and then stoned to death - will ever be carried out.

An Islamic court convicted her in March 2002 of having sex outside marriage after her daughter, Wasila, was born two years after Lawal had divorced her husband. The child is now nearly 2.

An earlier appeal filed by her team of volunteer lawyers was rejected by another court in August 2002. If her sentence is upheld today the case will go to an appeals court in the north-central city of Kaduna, and then possibly to Nigeria's Supreme Court, lead lawyer Aliyu Musa Yawuri told the Associated Press.

Yawuri has argued Lawal's case should be dropped because no lawyers were present when she first testified she had slept with another man after her divorce. Yawuri said Lawal - a poor, uneducated woman from a rural family - also didn't understand the charges against her at the time.

Lawal identified her sexual partner, Yahaya Mohammed, and said he promised to marry her. Mohammed, who would also have faced a stoning sentence, has denied any impropriety and was acquitted for lack of evidence.

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