An Islamic court of appeals in Sokoto state, Nigeria has granted Safiya Hussaini a stay of execution, allowing Hussaini to appeal the decision of a lower Islamic court sentencing her to death by stoning. Charged with adultery, Hussaini claims that she was raped three times by a male assailant, resulting in the birth of an infant daughter. Hussaini pressed charges against her assailant, but the court dismissed them declaring there was not enough evidence against him. Officials from Sokoto state explained that because Hussaini is divorced, the court can sentence her to death if she is found to have had consensual sex. Had Hussaini never been married, she could have received one hundred lashes for pre-marital sex.
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.