DUTSE, Nigeria – An Islamic court on Tuesday suspended what would have been Nigeria’s first execution by stoning, ordering the defendant – convicted of raping a 9-year-old girl – into a psychiatric hospital instead.
Family members had sought clemency for Sarimu Mohammed Baranda, 54, saying he was mentally ill.
A court earlier ordered that Baranda be buried up to the neck and stoned to death, the penalty for adultery under the strict Islamic legal code adopted by 12 states in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
Baranda had confessed in his May 2002 trial. His family appealed the following month.
Presiding appeal Judge Isa Inua Ali, ordered Baranda into a mental hospital until the local state governor decides to release him.
Baranda stared into space while the judgment was being read, shaking his head at times.
He told reporters outside the court he was grateful to God for his reprieve but added he would rather be taken home than to the mental institution “because I can be treated at home.”
Jigawa state prosecutor Muktari Abdullahi said an appeal was being considered.
Baranda was one of four people seeking to have death-by-stoning sentences overturned by Islamic courts in Nigeria.
The most prominent is Amina Lawal, a 32-year-old single mother, whose case has provoked an international outcry. She was convicted in March 2002 of having sex outside marriage and sentenced to be stoned once the baby born of her liaison is weaned.
The adoption of strict Islamic law in northern Nigeria has heightened tensions with the mainly Christian south.