Lawyers for a woman sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery asked an Islamic court in northern Nigeria on Wednesday to overturn the verdict, and the judge said he would issue a ruling in two weeks.
Hajara Ibrahim’s lawyers appealed the sentence at the Upper Shariah Court in the rural town of Dass, 25 miles south of the state capital, Bauchi.
Judge Mohammed Mustapha Umar said he would rule on the appeal on Nov. 10.
Ibrahim, now 18 years old and seven months pregnant, was convicted of adultery on Oct. 5 by an Islamic court in the remote town of Lere, Bauchi state, located in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
On Wednesday, Ibrahim’s lawyer Adbullahi Suleiman argued for the conviction to be overturned because Ibrahim was never married and, therefore, could not be guilty of adultery.
“There was no evidence she was once married,” Suleiman told The Associated Press at the end of the proceedings.
Under the version of Islamic Shariah law in effect in parts of northern Nigeria, sex outside wedlock is considered adultery if one of the partners is or has ever been married. If neither partner was ever married, then it is condemned as “fornication,” punishable by whipping.
While Ibrahim was sentenced on account of her pregnancy, the man she says impregnated her was freed for lack of evidence.
Ibrahim’s family says she was engaged to be married to another man, but the marriage rites were never concluded.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has criticized harsh sentences under Islamic law — including amputation of limbs for stealing and death by stoning — but has not moved to ban them because states are empowered to make laws in Nigeria’s federal system. No death by stoning sentence has been carried out in Nigeria.
The introduction of strict Islamic law in a dozen northern states in 1999-2000 heightened ethnic and religious tensions across the country, triggering violent clashes between Christians and Muslims that left thousands dead.