A pregnant Sudanese woman who married a Christian man was sentenced to death on Thursday after she refused to recant her Christian faith, her lawyer said.
Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim, but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was convicted of “apostasy” on Sunday and given four days to repent and escape death, lawyer Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed said.
The 26-year-old, who is eight months pregnant, was sentenced after that grace period expired, Mohammed said.
Amnesty International immediately condemned the sentence, calling it “abhorrent.” The US Department of State said it was “deeply disturbed” by the sentencing and called on the government to respect the right to freedom of religion.
Mohammed, the lawyer, called the conviction rushed and legally flawed, since the judge refused to hear key defense witnesses and ignored constitutional provisions on freedom of worship and equality among citizens.
Ibrahim and Wani married in a formal church ceremony in 2011 and have a son, 18-month-old Martin, who is with her in jail. The couple runs several businesses, including a farm, south of Khartoum.
Sudan’s penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims into other religions, which is punishable by death.
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.
Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah laws in the early 1980s under the rule of then-Sudanese president Jaafar Nimeiri, a move that contributed to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, an Islamist who seized power in a 1989 military coup, says his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone.
Mohammed said he intends to appeal Ibrahim’s conviction.
“The judge has exceeded his mandate when he ruled that Meriam’s marriage was void because her husband was out of her faith,” Mohammed said. “He was thinking more of Islamic Shariah laws than of the country’s laws and its constitution.”
He said Ibrahim’s Muslim father left her mother when she was a child and her mother raised her as a Christian.
The court also ordered that Ibrahim be given 100 lashes for having what it considers sexual relations with her husband, Daniel Wani, a Christian from southern Sudan who has US citizenship, according to the lawyer and judicial officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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