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International Herald Tribune/Corriere Della Sera



Italian organizations campaigning for clemency for Safiya Hussaini, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, say they are reasonably optimistic her life would be spared.

The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based Catholic human rights organization known for its mediation efforts in international conflicts, said Monday’s decision by a Muslim appeals court in Sokoto to postpone Hussaini’s appeal hearing by a week had “fuelled our hope.”

Hussaini, 33, was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death under Islamic law last October because she had become pregnant outside marriage. The divorced woman claims be conceived her fifth child after being raped.

The case has triggered a storm of international protest and various governments and non-governmental organizations have condemned the sentence.

Mario Marazziti of Sant’Egidio said more than 500 people took part in its Sunday night “save Safiya” vigil outside the Nigerian Embassy and stressed that

the Embassy itself was “receptive” to the campaign and ‘hopes far a positive solution” to the case. He noted that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had pronounced himself against the stoning sentence and in February expressed hope that “justice would be done” on appeal.

“The central government of Nigeria understands these outside requests (for clemency) but the country has a federal system and this is a local court, Marazziti said. Should the Sokoto court uphold her sentence, Hussaini could appeal to a federal tribunal, which is opposed to stoning, and failing that, Nigeria’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Aldo Forbice, the presenter of “Zapping,” a RAI radio program that has been running a daily campaign to save the woman from execution, said he was fairly optimistic that clemency would be granted.

He said the Nigerian Embassy had been inundated with more than a million faxes and e-mails as a result of Zapping’s Safiya campaign, which also included four candle-lit demonstrations outside the building.

In another show of Italian support, Hussaini was named an honorary citizen of Naples on Monday, and of Verona on Tuesday. In Florence, ambulances and civil protection vehicles expressed their support by beeping their horns at I P.M. on Monday.

Last month. Hussaini told reporters:

“I don’t know where ltaly or Europe is but they have told me that people in those places, in those countries. have helped me. I thank them and wish them well. Perhaps with their help, my life will be saved.’