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In some countries, such as Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal.

However, in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, stoning is not legal but tribal leaders, militants and others carry it out extrajudicially.

In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).

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But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed.

Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law.

Today, it is predominantly associated with Muslim culture. Supporters of stoning say the Hadith depicts the Prophet as occasionally ordering stoning in cases of extramarital sex.

But some scholars say these acts and sayings – recorded several hundred years after the Prophet's death – have been misinterpreted.

In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry.

The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison.

Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.

Stoning is also a legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, a third of Nigeria's 36 states, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Men accused of adultery are also more likely to have the means to hire lawyers, and their greater physical freedom makes it easier for them to flee in situations where they risk extrajudicial stoning. Convictions are frequently based on confessions made under duress.

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