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Sudan: Christian Woman Sentenced to Death Goes Free

Sudanese woman on death row for apostasy has her sentence canceled and goes free.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/24/2014, 5:13 AM

Sudanese flag
Sudanese flag
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A Sudanese woman on death row for apostasy had her sentence canceled and was ordered released by a Khartoum court on Monday, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

The Sudanese state news agency SUNA said the Court of Cassation canceled the death sentence against 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim after defense lawyers presented their case. The court ordered her release.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Christian mother, was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian. Sudan's penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions, a crime punishable by death.

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.

The court had given her four days to repent back in May and, when that grace period expired, sentenced her to death.

The sentence drew international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it "abhorrent." The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.

Sudan introduced Islamic Sharia 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.

Over the past month there had been conflicting reports about Ibrahim’s status. Several days after the death sentence was announced, Sudan defended the verdict but indicated it was only preliminary.

A subsequent report said Ibrahim would be freed within a few days, but the government in Khartoum denied that report.