Posted by AFP on
A pregnant Nigerian teenager appeared before an Islamic court to hear her lawyer launch an appeal against her conviction for adultery, for which she was sentenced to be stoned to death.
DASS, Nigeria (AFP) - A pregnant Nigerian teenager appeared before an Islamic court to hear her lawyer launch an appeal against her conviction for adultery, for which she was sentenced to be stoned to death.
Hajara Ibrahim, 18, sat quietly in a makeshift cubicle, shielded from the gaze of onlookers peering through the windows of the simple, one-storey hall housing the Upper Sharia Court in the central Nigerian farming village of Dass.
Her lawyer argued that the October 8 judgement was invalid because Hajara had not consummated her marriage before sleeping with her boyfriend and conceiving a child and was thus innocent of the capital crime of adultery.
"With these arguments we pray to God to quash the lower court judgement and acquit the accused," Abdulkadir Suleiman told the hearing, as Hajara's father and her alleged lover looked on from the bare wooden benches of the courtroom.
"What we are saying is that Sharia should be implemented properly as prescribed by Islam and devoid of any doubt," he declared.
Judge Mohammed Mustafa Umar agreed to study the evidence and adjourned the court until November 10, when he will pass judgement.
Afterwards, the heavily pregnant teenager told AFP that she felt encouraged by the hearing, and hoped that she might soon escape her sentence. "I'm confident of winning the appeal. I'm confident of my lawyer," she said.
Hajara is the latest young woman to be swept up into northern Nigeria's stumbling five-year-old attempt to replace the vast region's poorly administered secular criminal justice system with Islam's strict Sharia law.
Since 1999, 12 states across the mainly Muslim north of the country have begun reintroducing Sharia principles into their penal codes, including punishments such as flogging, amputation and stoning.
No stonings have yet been carried out, but several men and women around the region have been convicted of a variety of s-xual crimes -- adultery, rape or sodomy -- and are awaiting news of their appeals.
Suleiman, who was paid to represent Hajara by the Nigerian women's rights group Baobab, said he had a second female teenage client in Bauchi State whose appeal would be heard in Ningi Upper Sharia Court on November 3.
The lawyer said that Daso Amadu had already been married to five different men by the time she reached 18, and had three children, the last of them allegedly as the result of an extra-marital liaison.
On Monday, in her home village of Sidai, a sobbing Hajara told AFP how she came to lose her husband and her boyfriend and end up back in her village, seven months pregnant and with a death sentence over her head.
"I swear by the Koran I never slept with any man but Dauda. He promised to marry me," she said, dabbing at the tears running down cheeks scarred with Fulani tribal marks with the edge of her light-blue headscarf.
She was promised to a man in a city two states and 220 kilometres (135 miles) away, but instead fell for a local boy, Dauda Sani.
"I was married to a man in Lafia, but before I moved into his house Dauda came with the promise to marry me ... I submitted myself to him and this is the result," she explained, patting the heavy seven-month-old bulge her womb.
If the court decides that Hajara had been married to the man from Lafia before she had s-x with Dauda -- irrespective whether or not she was divorced -- then she is guilty of adultery and must be stoned to death.
If, on the other hand, she can be considered an unmarried virgin then she is guilty simply of fornication and could escape with 100 lashes of a cane.