In September, 31-year-old Amina Lawal saw a Nigerian court overturn her sentence to be stoned to death for adultery.
Lawal became an international cause celebre in 2002 after she was convicted of adultery by an Islamic Sharia court in the northern Nigeria state of Lagos and sentenced to death by stoning.
But the 4-1 decision by the appeals court to overturn the death by stoning verdict was based largely on procedural issues rather than any recognition on the part of the Islamic court that stoning to death people for adultery might not be an appropriate punishment.
Lawal’s acquittal was based on the appeals court’s findings that the proper number of witnesses did not testify against Lawal and that she became pregnant within two years after divorcing her husband rather than five as the law requires for the pregnancy itself to be used as prima facie evidence of adultery.
That last bit, by the way, is apparently due to a bizarre misunderstanding of human biology embedded in Islamic sharia law. According to The Vanguard (Lagos),
According to the lead defence lawyer, Aliyu Musa Yawuri, under some interpretations of sharia, babies can remain in gestation in a mother’s womb for five years, opening the possibility that her ex-husband could have fathered the child.
Lagos Gov. Bola Tinubu proclaimed that the decision was a victory for the Islamic system of justice,
This is a victory for the sharia legal system. This is a victory for justice. This judgment has made the crucial point that the sharia is a well-developed legal system that places emphasis on objectivity, respect for evidence, serious regard for the truth and a holistic perspective that combines morality and legality.
And apparently a complete ignorance of reproductive biology. That’s an awfully thin thread to hang justice upon.
Nigerian court overturns stoning sentence in adultery case. Voice of America News, September 26, 2003.
South Africa welcomes the acquittal of Nigeria’s Amina Lawal. ChannelAfrica.Org, September 26, 2003.
Appeal Court Quashes Death Verdict On Amina Lawal. Vanguard (Lagos, Nigeria), September 26, 2003.
Nigerian Woman Avoids Stoning Death. Associated Press, September 25, 2003.