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Yemeni President orders retrial of death row woman

The death sentence handed down to the Yemeni woman whose case was raised by several people worldwide including Maltese MEP John Attard Montalto has been revoked.

The Yemeni embassy in Rome said that President Ali Abdullah Saleh had declared that Amina Ali Abulatif al Tuhaif will have a retrial during which she will have the opportunity to prove her innocence.

Dr Attard Montalto met the Yemeni Minister for Human Rights, Khadijah Al-Haisami, during a recent visit as part of a delegation from the European Parliament.

Ms al Tuhaif had been sentenced to death after being convicted of participation in her husband Hezn Hasam Qabail's murder.

At the time of her arrest in 1998, Ms al Tuhaif did not have any documents to prove her age. However, a government-appointed doctor established that at the time of the crime she was between 14 and 15.

Under Yemeni law, she could only be sentenced to death if she was at least 15 years old at the time of the murder. But the country has also signed the Child Rights Convention, which states that 18 is the minimum age for capital punishment. Ms al Tuhaif has continually maintained her innocence. Amnesty International, which mounted a campaign for her release, says the woman was raped by a prison guard while in al-Mahaweet prison. Her subsequent pregnancy later saved her life, as Yemeni law rules that a mother cannot be executed until the child is two.

According to Yemeni tribal law, which is very influential, a convicted murderer could also be spared the death penalty if the victim's family are prepared to accept compensation.

Dr Attard Montalto had offered to make such a payment on her behalf.

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