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Amina Lawal Story
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Amina Lawal Story



On March 22, 2002 Amina Lawal, a 30 year-old Muslim woman, was sentenced to be stoned 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 judgment was passed. Following this she filed an appeal against her sentence with the help of a lawyer hired by a pool of Nigerian human rights and women's rights organizations.

Her first appeal was before the Shari'ah Court of Appeal in Funtua, Katsina State. It was set for May 27, 2002 but adjourned twice before being heard on 8 July. During the hearing the prosecutor urged the court to maintain the death sentence, passed by the Shari'ah court of Bakori. On August 19, Amina's first appeal was denied. Her second appeal was also denied at the end of September. The thirty-day period for her to file her appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal expires at the end of the first week of November. Following that and if necessary, she could and would appeal to necessary to the Supreme Court in Abuja, the nation's capital.

On October 29th, the Nigerian Government stated that no one would ever be executed under Shari'ah law in Nigeria. This is not the first time the government has indicated its intention to prevent the punishment from being carried out. However, it does not address the legal process that Amina Lawal is currently facing. She has not been acquitted and awaits her appeal for which there is still no confirmed date. The Federal Government could formally intervene if her appeal to the state court is rejected. At that point, the case would go to the Federal Court of Appeal and from there to the Supreme Court. The Federal Government will most likely not interfere in a judiciary case until Amina has run out of appeals and the death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Then, the President would have the power to pardon her.

While this represents a positive attitude from the Federal government, it does not address the inherent problems in the application of justice in Northern Nigeria, the lack of equal protection of human rights for women and persons of Muslim faith and the use of the death penalty. It also does not address the fact that there are currently three other persons facing death by stoning in Nigeria who will have to go through this cruel process all over again. Further there are other death by stoning cases in countries like Sudan where the risk of death sentences being carried out is substantially greater so it is essential that pressure be maintained to save Amina Lawal, the others facing similar punishments and change the way Shari'ah laws are enforced.

Amnesty International says the most effective way to put a stop to Amina's horrifying sentence is to e-mail the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States. Oprah urges you personally to join this e-mail campaign.

"Over one million e-mails have already been delivered, and what I'm hoping is that we can send at least one million more. Two million people cannot be ignored. And five million would be even more powerful." Oprah


Click here to e-mail the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States.