Nigerian Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning Changes Defense

Sufiyatu Huseini, the Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, is now being helped by a local women’s rights group (financed by the Ford and MacArthur Foundations) who have hired lawyers to defend Huseini.

Her lawyers have changed her defense and claim that the child she bore is not that of her neighbor, who she claims raped her three times, but that of her former husband. The lawyers also state that Huseini did not understand the nature of the claims against her nor the questions she was being asked. They also contend that her original statements were made under pressure and in the absence of legal representation.

Huseini is accused of adultery and was sentenced in June 2001 in an Islamic court to death by stoning. She is currently appealing that decision and will appeal to the Nigerian Supreme Court should the lower court ruling stand.

Hussaini’s original sentencing caused an international outcry that led to the central government threatening to overstep regional authorities that follow Islamic sharia law. Sharia was first established in Zamfara state, Nigeria in 2000 and has spread to at least twelve other Nigerian states, mostly in the predominately Islamic north, creating tensions between Christian and Islamic populations there. At least two riots have broken out over the threat of introducing sharia, resulting in the deaths of more than one thousand people.


New York Times Magazine, 1/27/02; New York Times, 12/3/01; and Feminist Majority Foundation

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