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Friday 19 September 2014

Apostasy charge woman faces death

Published 15/05/2014 | 14:07

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A court in Sudan has given a death sentence to a woman who married a Christian man

A Muslim-by-birth Sudanese woman who married a Christian man has been sentenced to death after she refused to recant her Christian faith, judicial officials and Amnesty International said.

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Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but her mother Christian, was convicted of apostasy on Sunday and given four days to repent and escape the death sentence.

The 26-year-old was sentenced after that grace period expired, officials said.

As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father's religion.

The court in the capital, Khartoum, also ordered that she be given 100 lashes for committing "zena" - an Arabic word for illegitimate sex - for having sexual relations with her husband, a Christian from southern Sudan.

Her case first came to the attention of authorities in August last year, when members of her family complained that she was born a Muslim but married a Christian man.

Authorities charged her with zena and she was put on trial. She was first detained in a Khartoum jail in February and charged with apostasy after she declared in court that she was raised as a Christian by her mother, said an Amnesty International spokesman.

She is eight months pregnant and has her 18-month-old son in jail with her, the Amnesty spokesman added.

There have been a number of cases over the years of Sudanese convicted of apostasy, but they all escaped the gallows by recanting their faith.

Mrs Ibrahim is the first to be sentenced to death for apostasy, Amnesty said. Her lawyers plan to appeal against the sentence.

The sentencing drew condemnation from Western embassies in Khartoum and international rights groups, including Amnesty International.

"The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is appalling and abhorrent," Amnesty said in a statement. "Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all."

The group also called for her immediate and unconditional release.

Lawyer Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed, who is representing Mrs Ibrahim, said he intends to appeal against the conviction.

"The judge has exceeded his mandate when he ruled that Meriam's marriage was void because her husband was out of her faith," Mr Mohammed said. "He was thinking more of Islamic Sharia laws than of the country's laws and its constitution."

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