LAGOS, Nigeria — A Muslim appeals court acquitted a Nigerian woman Monday who had been sentenced to death by stoning for having sex out of wedlock. The case had prompted protests at home and abroad and raised fears of religious unrest in the West African nation.
Tambari Usman, one of four judges on the panel hearing the appeal in the northern city of Sokoto, said the evidence presented was insufficient to warrant a conviction.
"Thank you, thank you," Safiya Hussaini murmured as well-wishers translated the ruling from Arabic into her native Hausa language.
The 35-year-old mother of five was the first of at least two women sentenced to death by stoning since a dozen Nigerian states began implementing Sharia, or Islamic law, two years ago.
Amina Lawal Kurami was condemned to the same fate Friday in Katsina state, just days after President Olusegun Obasanjo's government declared unconstitutional the harshest of Sharia punishments, such as beheadings, stonings and amputations. She has 30 days to appeal.
In Kurami's case, the offense also was having sex out of wedlock. She gave birth to a girl more than nine months after divorcing her husband. The man she said was the father was acquitted for lack of evidence after he denied the allegation.
Sokoto Gov. Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa called Monday's decision "fair and just" and evidence of Sharia's effectiveness. Several other northern state governments also say they will continue to uphold the laws, despite the mounting opposition from the federal administration.