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Human Rights

Sudanese death sentence for pregnant woman

A death sentence passed by a Sudanese court on a woman who is eight-months pregnant and refused to recant her Christian faith has sparked international uproar. The Khartoum court also ordered 100 lashes.

Amnesty International condemned as "abhorrent" a Sudanese court for its sentencing to death on Thursday of a pregnant woman. She was raised as a Christian in Sudan where Sharia, or Islamic law, has applied since the early 1990s.

Judge Abbas Mohammed al-Khalifa told the 27-year-old Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag that she would be hanged - after she gave birth - for not declaring Islam to be the religion of her birth.

Ibrahim Ishag's case emerged last year when relatives of her father's family complained that she was born a Muslim but married to a Christian man.

Lashes for 'adultery'

On Thursday, Khalifa also sentenced Ishag to 100 lashes for alleged "adultery" for having sexual relations with her non-Muslim husband, Daniel Wani, a Christian.

The pair married in 2011, have a young son and run a farm south of Khartoum.

Ibrahim Ishag told the court: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

One of Ibrahim Ashag's lawyers, Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed, said the sentence would be taken to appeal before Sudan's constitutional court if necessary.

Mohammed said Ibrahim Ishag's Muslim father had left her mother when she was a child and her mother -- an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia -- had raised her as a Christian.

Under Sudanese President Omar Bashir, sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims. Children must follow their father's religion.

'Deep concern,' say diplomats

Ahead of Thursday's ruling in Khartoum, the embassies of the United States, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands expressed "deep concern" over the case.

Ibrahim Ishag was convicted last Sunday. The court had given her until Thursday to recant.

Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said Sudan was not unique in its law against apostasy, saying Saudi Arabia did not allow a Muslim to change his or her religion.

Britain's Minister for Africa said the sentencing to death highlighted a "stark divide between the practices of the Sudanese courts and the country's international human rights obligations."

ipj/dr (AFP, AP)

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