A pregnant Sudanese woman who refused to renounce her Christianity was sentenced to death by hanging Thursday in a Khartoum court, provoking outrage from human rights groups.
"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death," Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman, addressing her by a Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Local media report the sentence on the woman, who is pregnant, 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.
This will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes, AFP reports.
Then she calmly told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."
Amnesty International said the woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother\’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.
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, Amnesty said.
The group called for her immediate release.
She is said to be eight months\’ pregnant.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, was charged with apostasy, as well as adultery, for marrying a Christian man, something prohibited for Muslim women to do and which makes the marriage void.
Ibrahim\’s case was the first of its kind to be heard in Sudan, the Reuters news agency reported.
She was convicted of adultery 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.
The woman was originally sentenced to death on Sunday but given until Thursday to return to Islam.
In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Sudanese rights activists sharply condemned the accusations and called on the Sudanese government to respect freedom of faith.
"The details of this case expose the regime\’s blatant interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens," Sudan Change Now Movement, a youth group, said in a statement.
The judge Thursday also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes on charges of adultery. Under Sudanese law, marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is not permitted, and any such union is considered adultery.
Earlier this week, the U.S.,
British, Canadian and Dutch embassies expressed "deep concern" about the case, and called on Sudan\’s government to respect the right to religious freedom.
Sudan\’s 2005 constitution guarantees the right to freedom of worship. In practice, the government enforces a form of Islamic law.
Speaking to the AFP news agency, Ahmed Bilal Osman, Sudan\’s Information minister, said: "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."
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir\’s government is facing a huge economic and political challenge after the 2011 secession of South Sudan, which was Sudan\’s main source of oil.