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Christian woman on Sudanese death row gives birth

Meriam Ibrahim, who received a death sentence for refusing to denounce her faith, gives birth in prison

A Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to death after refusing to denounce her faith has given birth in Sudanese jail, a Western diplomat told the Agence France-Presse.

The diplomat said that Meriam Ibrahim, 26, gave birth to a baby girl. "The mother and the baby seem to be doing OK," said the diplomat, who did not want to reveal his identity. "It's a cruel treatment to be in such a situation."

Under Sudanese law, a pregnant woman cannot be executed until giving birth and raising the child for two years, according to Amnesty International. 

Ibrahim's case has sparked global outrage ever since a Khartoum-area court sentenced her to death on May 15.

Born to a Muslim father and an Orthodox Christian mother, she was convicted of apostasy under the Islamic law banning Muslims from converting to other religions, punishable by death. Sharia, or Islamic law, has been enforced in Sudan since 1983. 

Ibrahim's husband, who is Christian, did not respond to telephone calls on Tuesday.

Human rights activists have said Ibrahim is being held at a women's prison in the city of Omdurman with her first child, a 20-month-old son.

Britain's Foreign Office said Monday it had summoned Sudan's charge d'affaires, Bukhari Afandi, and urged him to try to overturn the sentence.

Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa on May 15 sentenced Ibrahim to death by hanging, as well as to 100 lashes for "adultery.” Under Sudan's interpretation of Sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man and any such relationship is regarded as adulterous.

"I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy," she calmly told the judge before he issued the sentence.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, is a Christian from southern Sudan who has U.S. citizenship, according to the lawyer and judicial officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Wani was acquitted of a charge of harboring an apostate, according to another defense lawyer, Eman Abdul-Rahim. He fled to the United States as a child to escape the civil war in southern Sudan but later returned, she said.

Amnesty International condemned Ibrahim’s sentence, calling it "abhorrent."

The U.S. Department of State has said it is “deeply disturbed” by the death sentence. “We continue to call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, a right which is enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution as well as international human rights law,” said department spokeswoman Marie Harf in a release.

Ibrahim's case first came to the attention of authorities in August, when members of her father's family complained that she was born a Muslim but married a Christian man.

They claimed that her birth name was "Afdal" and that she had changed it to Meriam. But she said the document produced by relatives to show she was given a Muslim name at birth was a fake. "I was never a Muslim. I was raised a Christian from the start," she said.

Authorities first charged her with having illegitimate sex last year but she remained free pending trial. She was charged with apostasy and jailed in February after she declared in court that Christianity was the only religion she knew.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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