A Sudanese judge in Khartoum on Thursday sentenced to death a woman who is eight months pregnant for abandoning her Muslim faith by converting to Christianity, convicting her under the country’s strict Islamic sharia law.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was convicted last Sunday but had been given until Thursday to recant.
"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged," Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told 27-year-old Ibrahim as the verdict was read out in the Khartoum district of Haj Yousef.
The defendant reacted without emotion to her sentence, which also included 100 lashes for committing "adultery" for having married a non-Muslim man
Under sharia law, which has has been in force in Sudan since 1983, conversions are punishable by death.
Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, but changed her religion when she married her Christian husband, a South Sudan national, human rights activists said.
According to Amnesty International, Ibrahim was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion, because her Muslim father was absent.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with her in the caged dock for about 30 minutes.
Then she calmly told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."
Sudan has a strongly Islamist government but, other than floggings, extreme sharia law punishments have been rare.
Outside the court, about 50 people held up signs that read “Freedom of Religion”, while some Islamists celebrated the ruling, chanting “God is Greatest”.
Young Sudanese university students have mounted a series of protests near Khartoum University in recent weeks asking for an end to human rights abuses, more freedoms and better social and economic conditions.
Western embassies have, along with human right activists, condemned what they said were human rights abuses and called on the Sudanese Islamist-led government to respect freedom of faith.
"We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs," the embassies of the United States, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands said in their statement.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-15