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Woman spared Nigeria stoning death

Hussaini and daughter
Husaini with her daughter Adama: Freed on appeal  

By CNN's Jeff Koinange

SOKOTO, Nigeria (CNN) -- A Nigerian mother sentenced to death by stoning has had her sentence quashed.

A sharia appeals court overturned a lower court ruling on technical grounds, the woman's lawyer told CNN.

The lower court in the northwestern state of Sokoto had sentenced Safiya Husaini, 35, to be stoned to death on a charge of adultery.

Sokoto is one of 12 states in the West African country that operate under sharia, or Islamic, law. There are 36 states in Nigeria.

Reports say the woman won the appeal because the alleged adultery was committed before the sharia law was instituted in Sokoto. It is not yet known if the prosecution will continue to pursue this case.

Husaini, who is divorced, said she plans to marry the father of the child she gave birth to out of wedlock 10 months ago.

Human rights and women's groups in Nigeria and throughout the world have campaigned against the death sentence. There is also a debate about the legality and justice of sharia law.

Tensions and violence between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria have been blamed in part on the imposition of sharia.

Not long after the news came of Husaini's acquittal, another divorced woman in the northern Nigerian state of Katsina was sentenced to death on a charge of adultery by another Islamic court.

Earlier this month, fearing international isolation if harsh Islamic sharia law continues, Nigeria's justice minister Godwin Agabi ordered states to modify the penalties.

Agabi said in a letter to states that his office had been inundated by "hundreds of letters which I receive daily from all over the world protesting the discriminatory punishments now imposed by some sharia courts.

"As a respected member of the world community we cannot be indifferent to these protests."

Agabi said the imposition of harsher punishment on Muslims than prescribed under Nigerian law was discriminatory, unconstitutional and a threat to national unity.

Sharia was introduced to northern states in the country of 110 million people in 1999.


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