April 25, MADA, Nigeria (AP) - Muslim prosecutors sought the death penalty for two men accused of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime for which an Islamic court judge gave the accused men three days to reconvert.

Lawali Yakubu and Ali Jafaru, villagers in their 30s, were accused in the Islamic, or Shariah, court in the northern town of Mada of recently abandoning the Islamic faith and joining the Great Commission Movement, an international Evangelical church with a strong following in Nigeria.

Auwal Jabaka, the court judge, said Wednesday that although the Muslim holy book, or Quran, calls for the execution of Muslims who accept another religion, it was unclear whether the state's two-year-old Shariah penal code also permitted such a punishment.

Jabaka adjourned the court for three days to allow the accused to ``change their minds'' and convert back to Islam.

In the meantime, he called on the Zamfara government to clarify its position on the matter.

``If the law empowers me to (execute the two for converting from Islam to Christianity), I will have no hesitation in doing that,'' the judge said.

Yakubu and Jafaru were not represented by lawyers but were instead accompanied by fellow church members.

The two argued they had never been Muslims, but were instead members of the Magazawa, a Hausa subgroup that has long practiced Christianity. The overwhelming majority of Hausas - one of Nigeria's largest tribes - are Muslim.

The case was believed to be the first of its kind since a dozen predominantly Muslim northern states began implementing Shariah law in early 2000, despite virulent opposition from mainly Christian and animist southerners.

In the past two years, thousands of Muslims and Christians have been killed in periodic bursts of inter-religious bloodletting.

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