Nigerian archbishop offers to take place of woman condemned to death by stoning

 Dr Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Catholic archbishop of Lagos in south-western Nigeria, has offered to die in place of a woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery. The sentence was imposed by an Islamic court on Safiya Hussaini Tungar-Tudu. She is appealing the conviction. The next hearing has been set for 18 March. Human rights groups around the world, including the San Edigio community in Rome, and Amnesty International have been appealing for the sentence to be lifted. Last year Amnesty took up the case, reporting that Safiya, aged 30, from Sokoto State in northern Nigeria, had been tried in a Shari'ah court in the town of Gwadabawa on October 14, 2001 and condemned to death by stoning. A divorcee, with a five-month-old baby, she was charged and convicted of adultery. Under Shari'ah, adultery is a capital offence when the individual involved is married. Amnesty said different standards and validity of testimony were applied to Safiya and the married man involved in the case. A spokesmasn said: "He was released because of lack of evidence, raising the concern of discrimination on the basis of gender by the court." Shari'ah law was introduced in Nigeria in September 1999. At that time Archbishop Okogie warned that this could set the country on "a path to destruction". "What benefit will this serve us in a multi-religious and secular society to have Shari'ah and civil laws together? Nigeria is a secular country. Nigeria is not an Islamic country," Okogie said. The Christian Elders Forum of Northern Nigeria also called on the federal government to "either withdraw Shari'ah courts in the country or the Christian canon law and other religious courts (should) be also adopted and financed by the government." Forum spokesperson Dr Christopher Abashiya called for one constitution and legal codes that would be binding on all Nigerians. "Nigeria should remain one united sovereign nation while justice, fair play, and equity should be allowed to prevail," he said. The San Edigio community and Amnesty have put out urgent appeal asking people to write to the Nigerian government calling for the lifting of the sentence. If you would like to write on behalf of Safiya send letters to the Nigerian embassy nearest you, or: President Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Villa Aso Rock Abuja Nigeria Nigerian High Commission Nigeria House 9 Northumberland Avenue. London WC2 Fax: 0207 8398746 His Excellency Professor Jibril Aminu Embassy of Nigeria 1333 16th St., N.W. Washington, DC 20036

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