Men charged with
sodomy by Islamic court, face stoning

Two Nigerian men
appeared in court on Wednesday charged with committing
sodomy and could now face being stoned to death after they
were caught together in a toilet in the northern
Muslim city of Katsina. The hearing came just days
after a senior United Nations envoy called on Nigeria to
drop homosexuality from the list of crimes punishable by
death under the strict version of Islamic law in force
in the north of the country.
Yusuf Kabir, 40, and Usman Sani,
18, appeared before Judge Mustapha Sani Saulawa
at Katsina's Sharia Court Number 3 expecting to face the
first substantive hearing in their case since their arrest
on June 19. They appeared together in the witness box,
tied together by the hems of their faded blue and
brown caftans to prevent them from running away, only
to see proceedings postponed while prosecutors prepare the
case against them. "Since the prosecution could not
produce its witnesses before this court today, I
hereby adjourn the hearing until August 3, while the
accused are to remain in prison custody," Saulawa told the
crowded courtroom.
According to an initial police report, which a
court official showed to an Agence France-Presse
reporter, the pair were arrested after local resident
Lawal Umar saw them having sex in a toilet in the Kerau
district of the city and alerted the police. Islamic
Sharia law was reintroduced in Katsina State in August
2001, making it one of a dozen mainly Muslim northern
states to have readopted the code since Nigeria's return to
civilian rule in 1999. Under the interpretation of Muslim
legal texts in force here, sexual offenses such as
adultery, rape, and homosexuality are punishable by death.
But while more than a dozen people have been
convicted under these laws, no one has yet been stoned
to death and the law remains controversial.
On July 8, Philip Alston, a special rapporteur
of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, ended a visit
to Nigeria with a call for the death penalty to be
dropped in cases of homosexuality. "Sodomy cannot be
considered one of the most serious crimes for which,
under international law, the death penalty can be
prescribed. The punishment is wholly
disproportionate," he said, publishing initial findings.
(AP)

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