Sentenced earlier by a lower court, 54-year old Sarimu Mohammed would become the first Nigerian to be killed by stoning if the Islamic court upholds the conviction.

But both the defence and the prosecution now say they expect the court in Dutse, the provincial capital of Jigawa, to be lenient and show mercy, since Sarimu is mentally impaired.

But irrespective of the final verdict, Sarimu's fate has reignited the debate over reintroduction of Sharia in northern Nigera. Twelve states have adopted Islamic law since 1999.

54-year old Sarimu Mohammed would become the first Nigerian to be killed by stoning if the Islamic court was to uphold the conviction

Jigawa state officials said they had received more than 1000 letters urging them to commute Sarimu's death sentence.

Monday's verdict will also rekindle interest in two more high profile cases, pending appeals before the higher court.

A mother of three, Amina Lawal, was sentenced to death by stoning last year for adultery after she bore a child out of wedlock.

Ex-lovers, Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim were also handed the same sentence in Niger state.

Many non-Muslim Nigerians view Sharia penal law as harsh and out of step with the country's liberal traditions and recently restored democracy.

Nigeria's federal government has said it opposes stoning sentences, but has so far not attempted to legally challenge  implementation of sentences.