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Sudan Judge Sentence Woman To Death For Converting From Islam To Christianity -

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A Sudanese judge on Thursday sentenced a
Christian woman to hang for apostasy, despite
appeals by Western embassies for compassion and
respect for religious freedom.
Born to a Muslim father, the woman was convicted
under the Islamic sharia law that has been in force
in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on
pain of death.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, is eight months
pregnant and married to a Christian national of
South Sudan which broke away in 2011, human
rights activists say.
“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
the woman, addressing her by her father’s Muslim
name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Khalifa also sentenced Ishaq to 100 lashes for
“adultery”. Under Sudan’s interpretation of sharia, a
Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man and
any such relationship is regarded as adulterous.
Ishag reacted without emotion when Abbas
delivered the verdict at a court in the Khartoum
district of Haj Yousef.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader
spoke with her in the caged dock for about 30
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.
After the hearing about 50 people demonstrated
against the verdict.
“No to executing Meriam,” said one of their signs
while another proclaimed: “Religious rights are a
constitutional right.”
In a speech, one demonstrator said they would
continue their protests until she is freed.
A smaller group supporting the verdict also arrived
but there was no violence.
“This is a decision of the law. Why are you gathered
here?” one supporter asked, prompting an activist to
retort: “Why do you want to execute Meriam? Why
don’t you bring corruptors to the court?”
Sudan is widely perceived as one of the most graft-
ridden countries in the world, ranked 174th for its
performance by campaign group Transparency
About 100 people, including Western embassy
representatives, were in court to hear the sentence.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, four embassies
expressed “deep concern” over her case.
She was convicted last Sunday but given until
Thursday to recant.
“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, the United Kingdom
and the Netherlands said in their statement.
That right is included in Sudan’s 2005 interim
constitution as well as in international human rights
law, they said.
The embassies urged Sudanese legal authorities “to
approach Ms Meriam’s case with justice and
compassion that is in keeping with the values of the
Sudanese people”.
Amnesty International said Ishag was raised as an
Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because
her Muslim father was absent.
“It’s not only Sudan. In Saudi Arabia, in all the
Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a
Muslim to change his religion,” Information Minister
Ahmed Bilal Osman told AFP earlier.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British-based
group working for religious freedom, said Ishag’s
case is the latest among “a series of repressive acts”
against religious minorities in Sudan.
It said deportations, the confiscation and
destruction of church property, and other actions
against Christians have increased since December
But Osman said there is no oppression of Christians.
“We are living together for centuries,” he said.
Deportations have only occurred against activists
trying to convert people, which is not allowed, the
minister said, adding religious buildings
constructed without permits will be knocked down.
“Even a mosque, you cannot build a mosque without
a licence… If you build it like that, it will be

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