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

The Archbishop of Lagos, Dr Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, 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.

Appeal to stop the execution of Safiya Hussaini Tungar-Tudu (Comunita' di Sant'Egidio)