KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A pregnant Sudanese woman who married a Christian man was sentenced to death Thursday after she refused to recant her Christian faith, her lawyer said.
Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was convicted of "apostasy" on Sunday and given four days to repent and escape death, said lawyer Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed.
The 26 year old, who is eight months pregnant, was sentenced after that grace period expired, Mohammed said.
Amnesty International immediately condemned the sentence, calling it "abhorrent." The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the sentencing and called on the government to respect the right to freedom of religion.
Mohammed, the lawyer, called the conviction rushed and legally flawed since the judge refused to hear key defense witnesses and ignored constitutional provisions on freedom of worship and equality among citizens.
Ibrahim and Wani married in a formal church ceremony in 2011 and have a son, 18-month-old Martin, who is with her in jail. The couple runs several businesses, including a farm, south of Khartoum.
Sudan's penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims into other religions, which is punishable by death.
As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father's religion.
Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah laws 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. An earlier round of civil war lasted 17 years and ended in 1972. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world's newest nation, South Sudan.
Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power in a 1989 military coup, says his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone.
A number of Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they all escaped execution by recanting their new faith. Religious thinker and politician Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a critic of Nimeiri and his interpretation of Shariah, was sentenced to death after his conviction of apostasy. He was executed in 1985 at the age of 76.