16 May 2014

Death sentence for apostasy in Sudan

9:50 am on 16 May 2014

A Sudanese court has sentenced a pregnant woman to hang for apostasy - the abandonment of her religious faith - after she married a Christian man.

According to Amnesty International Dr Maryam Yahya Ibrahim who is eight months pregnant, was raised a Christian.

But the authorities consider her to be a Muslim, because that was the faith of her father, who was absent during her childhood.

St. Matthew's Catholic Cathedral near the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

St. Matthew's Catholic Cathedral near the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Photo: AFP

She was also sentenced to receive 100 lashes for adultery because the court deemed that her marriage was not valid on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan's version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

This will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.

Local media report the death sentence would not be carried out for two years after she had given birth.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.

Amnesty International's Sudan researcher Manar Idriss condemned the punishments, saying apostasy and adultery should not be considered crimes.

"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," he said.

The embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands issued a joint statement expressing "deep concern" about the case and urging Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, AFP reports.

The woman was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim.

Her lawyer Muhanned Mustafa says they will challenge the verdict.