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Amina Lawal's Death Sentence Quashed At Last

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL MEDIA RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NIGERIA: AMINA LAWAL'S DEATH SENTENCE QUASHED AT LAST

Amina Lawal, the Muslim woman sentenced to death by stoning in northern Nigeria for having a child out of wedlock has been acquitted on appeal, in a move welcomed by Amnesty International. The 31-year-old, sentenced in March 2002, was acquitted by the Sharia Court of Appeal of Katsina State.

"All New Zealanders who joined the campaign to help save Amina's life can take credit for today's victory," Amnesty International Executive Director, Ced Simpson said.

Amina Lawal's case received a great deal of attention in New Zealand, particularly in November last year during the controversy surrounding beauty contestant Rachel Huljich's decision to go to the Miss World pageant in Nigeria despite a plea from Prime Minister Helen Clark to boycott the event.

According to her defence lawyer, Amina Lawal was freed on the grounds that neither the conviction nor the confession were legally valid. Therefore no offence as such was established.

"Amina Lawal's case should not have been brought to a court of law in the first instance. Nobody should ever be made to go through a similar ordeal," Mr. Simpson said.

While Amina Lawal's conviction has been quashed, an appeal for another court case involving a death penalty sentence against Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim is still pending with a Sharia Court of Appeal in Minna, Niger State. This shows that work in support of women and men exercising their right to freedom of expression and association, freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy must continue.

Background Amina Lawal was found guilty by a Sharia Court in March 2002 after bearing a child outside marriage. Under new Sharia Penal Legislations in force in several northern Nigerian states since 1999, this was sufficient for her to be convicted of the offence of adultery as defined in the new Sharia Penal laws of Katsina state and summoned to appear before a Sharia tribunal to respond to this charge which now carries the mandatory punishment of death by stoning. The request of appeal for Amina Lawal's court case went through several adjournments before this last hearing.

ENDS

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