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Islamic Court Delays Execution

June 3, 2002

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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ An Islamic high court on Monday postponed the execution by stoning of a woman convicted of having sex out of wedlock until she weans the baby born of the liaison.

Amina Lawal, 30, was convicted and sentenced by an Islamic Shariah court in March after giving birth to a baby girl more than nine months after divorcing.

Defense lawyer Aliu Yawuri asked the Shariah high court in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state Monday to overthrow the execution order. Failing that, Yawuri argued, the court should postpone carrying out the death sentence until January 2004, when he said Lawal’s baby would be old enough to be weaned.

The baby is believed to be 5 months old. It’s not clear how long after Lawal’s divorce the child was born.

The judge, Aliu Abdullahi, agreed that Lawal would not be executed until 2004, if at all. He postponed hearings on the case until July 8.

Yawuri said the case against his client was politically sensitive, saying he expected her conviction to be overturned after Nigeria’s municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections are held over the coming year. Lawal is now free on bond.

During the March 19 trial, the man Lawal identified as her sexual partner, Yahaya Mohammed, denied the accusation and was acquitted for lack of evidence.

The U.S.-based National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Amnesty International are protesting the case.

Lawal is the second Nigerian woman condemned to death for having sex out of wedlock since Islamic law, or Shariah, started going into effect in a dozen northern states.

The first, Safiya Hussaini, had her sentence overturned in March by a Muslim appeals court in the city of Sokoto.

President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government has declared Shariah punishments such as beheadings, stonings and amputations unconstitutional. Some predominantly Muslim northern states have accused him of meddling.

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