Sudan: Woman appeals death sentence for converting to Christianity

Daniel Wani with his wife, Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim, who has been sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Gabriel Wani

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith after allegedly converting from Islam has appealed the sentence, her lawyer said.

The appeal demands the release of Meriam Ibrahim, saying the court that tried her committed "procedural errors," her lawyer, Eman Abdul-Rahim, told The Associated Press late Wednesday.

Ibrahim was sentenced to death for "apostasy" last month by a Khartoum court for allegedly converting to Christianity from Islam. She maintains that her Muslim father left when she was young and that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian mother, who is an Orthodox Christian.

Ibrahim married a Christian man from southern Sudan in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.

Ibrahim has a son, 18-month-old Martin, who is living with her in jail, where she gave birth to a second child last week.

"They didn't even take Meriam to a hospital - she just delivered inside a prison clinic," her lawyer told The Telegraph last month. "Neither her husband nor I have been allowed to see them yet."

By law, children must follow their father's religion.

Amnesty International condemned the sentence, calling it "abhorrent," and the U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the sentence.

Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, a move that contributed to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan.

The south seceded in 2011 to become the world's newest nation, South Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power in a 1989 military coup, has said his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone.

A number of Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they all escaped execution by recanting their new faith.

Religious thinker and politician Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a critic of Nimeiri and his interpretation of Shariah, was sentenced to death for apostasy. He was executed in 1985 at the age of 76.

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