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Appeal filed for Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her Christianity

By Faith Karimi and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
updated 2:34 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meriam Yehya Ibrahim considers herself Christian, but a court says she's Muslim
  • A Khartoum court convicted her of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith
  • The court also found her guilty of adultery for being married to a Christian

(CNN) -- A Sudanese lawyer filed an appeal Thursday for a pregnant woman sentenced to death this month for refusing to renounce her Christianity.

The filing asks the appeals court to reverse the verdict by the lower court and free Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27.

Ibrahim, who is eight months pregnant, was convicted of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith.

She is in prison with her 20-month-old son, but 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.

Daniel Wani and his son Martin.
Daniel Wani and his son Martin.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim on her wedding day.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim on her wedding day.

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 appeal 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 she 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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100 lashes

In addition to the death sentence, the court convicted her 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.

Opinion: Why marrying for love should never mean death

CNN's Catherine Shoichet, Christabelle Fombu and Mohammed Osman contributed to this report.

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