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Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her Christianity gives birth in prison

By Faith Karimi and Mohammed Osman, CNN
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 0353 GMT (1153 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, gave birth in prison
  • Sources: Her husband was not allowed to attend the birth
  • Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy

(CNN) -- A Sudanese woman sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christianity gave birth to a baby girl in prison Tuesday, her lawyers said.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, delivered her baby at a women's prison in Khartoum, but her husband was not allowed to be present for the birth, sources told CNN. They asked not to be named for safety reasons.

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Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, about two weeks ago while she was eight months pregnant.

A Sudanese lawyer filed an appeal last week to reverse the verdict by the lower court.

She is in prison with her 20-month-old son, but Sudanese officials have said the toddler is free to leave any time, according to her lawyer, Mohamed Jar Elnabi.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, is a U.S. citizen who uses a wheelchair and "totally depends on her for all details of his life," her lawyer said.

The appeal

The appeals court in Khartoum will issue a ruling on the case in the next week, but it will first ask the lower court to submit the documents it used to make the ruling, according to her lawyer.

Once that's done, it will issue a case number, he said.

"We will continue checking with the appeals court, but Inshallah (Allah willing) ... the appeals court will reverse the sentence and set her free," he said.

Christian or Muslim?

Ibrahim says her father was a Sudanese Muslim and her mother was Ethiopian Orthodox. Her father left when she was 6, and she was raised as a Christian.

The court had warned her to renounce her Christianity by May 15, but she held firm to her beliefs.

Sudanese Parliament speaker Fatih Izz Al-Deen said claims that Ibrahim was raised as non-Muslim are untrue.

She was raised in an Islamic environment, and her brother, a Muslim, filed the complaint against her, according to Al-Deen.

The complaint alleges that she went missing for several years, and her family was shocked to find out she married a Christian, according to her lawyer.

However, because her father was Muslim, the courts considered her one too, which would mean her marriage to a non-Muslim man is void.

Attempts to contact Sudan's justice minister and foreign affairs minister for comment were unsuccessful.

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Daniel Wani and his son Martin.
Daniel Wani and his son Martin.

100 lashes

In addition to the death sentence, the court convicted Ibrahim of adultery and sentenced her to 100 lashes.

The Parliament speaker has said the verdict is not final and will go through all the judicial stages to reach the constitutional court.

Worldwide condemnation

Rights groups and foreign embassies worldwide condemned the verdict.

"The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered," said Manar Idriss, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher.

Katherine Perks with the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said the verdict goes against Sudan's "own constitution and commitments made under regional and international law."

Foreign embassies in Khartoum, including those of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, urged the government to reverse course.

In past cases involving pregnant or nursing women, the Sudanese government waited until the mother weaned her child before executing any sentence, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide spokeswoman Kiri Kankhwende.

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