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April 30, 2003

Action: Amina Lawal

Amina Lawal is the Nigerian woman who was condemned to death by stoning for adultary, in accordance with Sharia Law. Death is inflicted by burying the victim in sand up to his/her neck, and then killing the victim by hurling stones at his/her head. The details of the case are given below. The object of this post is to call upon readers to sign a petition to Nigeria's president, requesting that the death sentence be overturned.

The petition is available on several sites, such as this one in Spanish and this site in English.

The foregoing sites organizing the petition are Amnesty International (AI) sites. Because of the strong anti-US and anti-Israel bias of AI, I normally have no dealing with this group; in fact, I withdrew my membership and support several years ago, and now, I would not even trust AI to walk my dog Medor. But AI is the only group known to me that has taken up the case of Amina Lawal, and there is little choice other to co-operate with an AI site if one wishes to sign the petition. Alternatively, one may write to the Nigerian president and/or the Nigerian legation in one's country.

Following is the description of Amina Lawal's case, as posted on the official AI site.

AMINA LAWAL, a 30 year-old Muslim woman, was sentenced on Friday 22 March 2002 to stoning to death by a Shari'ah court at Bakori in Katsina State in northern Nigeria. Amina allegedly confessed to having had a child while divorced. Pregnancy outside of marriage constitutes sufficient evidence for a woman to be convicted of adultery according to the new Shari'ah-based penal code for Muslims, introduced in Katsina State.

The man named as the father of her baby girl reportedly denied having sex with her and his confession was enough for the charges against him to be discontinued. Amina did not have a lawyer during her first trial, when the judgement was passed. But she has now filed an appeal against her sentence with the help of a lawyer hired by a pool of Nigerian human rights and women's rights organisations. Amina is awating trial at home. The Shari'ah Court of Appeal of Funtua, Katsina State, set 27 May as the date for the hearing of Amina's appeal against her sentence to death by stoning.

The first hearing of the appeal was scheduled for 27 May 2002, but adjourned twice, first to 3 June 2002 and then to 8 July 2002 after Amina Lawal's lawyer argued for an early hearing to take place instead of having the hearing postponed until next year as previously proposed by the court. Amina Lawal is still weaning her baby. Such a long adjournment of the case would have not served any useful purpose and would have deepened the climate of uncertainty created by the whole process. The terms of the bail have also been reviewed. Under these new terms for bail agreed by the court, Amina Lawal will no longer be reporting fortnightly to them. The only condition, however, is that Amina Lawal had to have a 'surety'.

On 19 August 2002, a Sharia court of appeal in Funtua took the decision to uphold the sentence of death by stoning imposed on Amina Lawal. This confirmation of the sentence has shocked the civil society in and outside Nigeria, especially all those who have been actively campaigning for Amina's rights to be protected. Amnesty International has expressed its concerned at this latest development in a Press release issued on 19 August 2002 which title is Nigeria: Death by stoning upheld in the case of Amina Lawal, AFR 44/17/2002, News Service N. 145.

Amina Lawal was granted 30 days to appeal against the decision. Amina's lawyer filed another appeal to the Upper Sharia court of appeal in Katsina.

On 25 March Amina Lawal's appeal hearing in Katsina was adjourned until 3 June. The reason given was that the tribunal should have had five members, but only three serving members were available.