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Nigeria stoning appeal adjourned

Lawal
Lawal gave birth to a baby girl more than nine months after divorcing.

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KATSINA, Nigeria (CNN) -- A Nigerian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for having a child outside marriage has had her appeal against her conviction for adultery adjourned.

Mother-of-four Amina Lawal, 30, was told her case will not be heard by the Islamic appeal court until August 27 -- two days after the date set for her execution.

But the court reassured her the execution will not go ahead before the appeal has been heard.

CNN's Jeff Koinange, who was at the court in the northern city of Katsina, said the court had explained the hearing had been postponed because of a shortage of judges.

Four judges were needed to hear the appeal but only two turned up because they were on "national duties," he said.

Lawal, whose life has been on hold for a year, is one of three Nigerians sentenced to be stoned to death for having sex outside marriage due in court this week.

The cases are expected to turn the spotlight back on a bitter battle over Shariah law in Nigeria.

Lawal was convicted and sentenced by an Islamic Shariah court in March last year after giving birth to a baby girl more than nine months after divorcing.

Pregnancy outside marriage constitutes sufficient evidence for a woman to be convicted of adultery according to some Northern Nigerian states that apply strict Shariah law.

An appeals court stayed her execution for two years to allow her to wean her baby.

Koinange says there has been a lot of pressure from around the world for the sentence to be overturned. "People are waiting to see what precedent this sets. The outcome will be crucial for Nigeria," he said.

"The woman's life is on hold. She has no idea what is happening to her, or the impact this case has had."

After the Islamic court, Lawal will have one more chance to appeal -- before Nigeria's Supreme Court.

"The supreme court is not a Shariah court, so if she is unsuccessful before the Islamic appeal court, she may have one more chance," Koinange said.

Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the sentence and says it is deeply concerned for the physical and psychological wellbeing of Lawal.

The adoption of Shariah law, which punishes theft with the amputation of hands, has stoked violence between Muslims and Christians in Africa's most populous state. More than 3,000 people have been killed.

--CNN Correspondent Jeff Koinage contributed to this report


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