Lawal, a 31-year-old village housewife, will learn next month whether her appeal has been successful, or whether she could still become the first Nigerian to be stoned to death since the return of Sharia law.

"The court has heard both sides in this case and hereby adjourns until 25 September for judgement," said trial judge on Wednesday, Grand Khadi Aminu Ibrahim, the highest Islamic legal authority in Lawal's home state, Katsina.

Earlier, the Katsina Sharia Appeal Court had heard Lawal's defence team argue that her first trial and her first, failed appeal had been unfair.

As Lawal and her baby Wasila left the court to return with family members to her home village of Kurami, her lawyer and friend Hauwa Ibrahim was confident that her life would be saved.

Appeal hope

"We are very hopeful that we are going to win," she said after the hearing, noting that the judges had extended the court's normal sitting hours to allow Lawal's appeal hearing to finish in good time.

And the chief prosecutor, Nurulhuda Mahmud, appeared to be preparing the ground for his possible defeat at next month's hearing.

The case in Katsina state has
drawn worldwide attention

"Our prayer to this court is to accept our explanation ... and order that the sentence be upheld. However, Sharia is not bent on passing death sentences," he told reporters after the hearing.

"If this court finds any doubt in the proceedings, that should be enough to save Amina from execution," he said.

Under Sharia, a person who has sex outside of marriage can be found guilty of adultery, and thus face death.

Last year, Lawal was denounced by fellow villagers in the Katsina farming community of Kurami after she gave birth to Wasila more than two years after splitting from her husband.

Global protests

She was convicted in March last year and lost her first appeal in August, instantly becoming an international cause celebre.

Her photo made front pages worldwide and her case inspired e-mail campaigns, candle-lit vigils and protests against the alleged brutality of what many regard as archaic and harsh punishments.

But defence counsel Aliyu Musa Yawuri has opted to challenge her conviction under the terms of Sharia, not to fight the controversial legal system itself.
 
He argued that the village court which convicted her had not properly explained the offence nor its consequences before her alleged confession.
He also said that the baby had been conceived before Sharia law formally came into force in Katsina State.

But the prosecutor contested this, saying that although Sharia was incorporated into state law on 20 June, 2002, an interim declaration of the law had been made in August 2000.