Cablegate: Amina Lawal - Conviction Overturned

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) In a four to one majority decision, the Katsina
State Shari'a Court of Appeal overturned Amina Lawal's March
2002 adultery conviction and sentence of stoning to death, on
the grounds that the conviction had been reached through bad
court procedure. A copy of the decision, which was announced
in the Hausa language, was not immediately available. Ms.
Lawal has been released from custody. It is possible that
she could be re-charged and retried, but this is most
unlikely. The press is reporting that the prosecutor has
already declared publicly there will be no further legal
action against Ms. Lawal.

2. (SBU) Amina Lawal had originally been convicted in a local
Islamic Law (Shari'a) court on a charge of adultery in March
2002. The only evidence was a child two years after she had
become divorced and a confession, later withdrawn, obtained
while she was without legal counsel. Ms. Lawal's sentence of
death by stoning was suspended by the original court until
her child was weaned.

3. (SBU) Nigeria's Constitution provides that states may
elect to apply Shari'a, and Nigeria's courts have long done
so in civil cases concerning family matters. Since January
2000, 12 northern states out of Nigeria's 36 states have
added criminal and penal codes based on Shari'a. Nigeria's
Constitution also rules out extreme punishments, an indirect
reference to such Shari'a-based punishments as stoning for
adultery, but the appeals court's decision today was to throw
out the entire conviction on grounds that it was reached
through bad court procedure. Such cruel punishments would
also contravene various international human rights agreements
to which Nigeria is a party, such as the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights, but these too appear not to have
been the basis for the appeal court's decision.

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