Sudan release woman on death row for apostasy

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Sudan release woman on death row for apostasy
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms, in his Santa Marta residence, at the Vatican, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith has arrived in Italy along with her family, including the infant born in prison. Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, File)
Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, disembarks with her children Maya, in her arms, and Martin, accompanied by Italian deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, after landing from Khartoum, at Ciampino's military airport, on the outskirts of Rome, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith has arrived in Italy along with her family, including an infant born in prison. An Italian diplomat who accompanied the family from Sudan said Italy leveraged its historic ties within the Horn of Africa region to help win her release. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets in his Santa Marta residence Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, center, with her children Maya in her arms, Martin, and her husband, Daniel Wani, right, at the Vatican, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith has arrived in Italy along with her family, including the infant born in prison. Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms, in his Santa Marta residence, at the Vatican, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Pope Francis has met privately with the Sudanese woman who arrived in Italy after escaping a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith. The Vatican said Pope Francis had "a very affectionate" meeting with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity" during the half-hour meeting. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets in his Santa Marta residence Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, center, with her children Maya in her arms, Martin, and her husband, Daniel Wani, right, at the Vatican, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Pope Francis has met privately with the Sudanese woman who arrived in Italy after escaping a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith. The Vatican said Pope Francis had "a very affectionate" meeting with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity" during the half-hour meeting. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy, sits in her cell a day after she gave birth to a baby girl at a women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on May 28, 2014. Sudan denied on June 1, 2014 Ishag would be freed soon, saying quotes attributed to a foreign ministry official had been taken out of context. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy, sits in her cell with her baby girl a day after she gave her birth at a women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on May 28, 2014. Sudan denied on June 1, 2014 Ishag would be freed soon, saying quotes attributed to a foreign ministry official had been taken out of context. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
In this image made from an undated video provided Thursday, June 5, 2014, by Al Fajer, a Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Meriam Ibrahim, sitting next to Martin, her 18-month-old son, holds her newborn baby girl that she gave birth to in jail last week, as the NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum, Sudan. The Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith after allegedly converting from Islam has appealed the sentence, her lawyer said. (AP Photo/Al Fajer)
In this image made from an undated video provided Thursday, June 5, 2014, by Al Fajer, a Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Meriam Ibrahim breastfeeds her newborn baby girl that she gave birth to in jail last week, as the NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum, Sudan. The Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith after allegedly converting from Islam has appealed the sentence, her lawyer said. (AP Photo/Al Fajer)
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By MOHAMED OSMAN

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- A Sudanese woman on death row for apostasy had her sentence canceled and was released by a Khartoum court on Monday, her lawyer and state media said.

State news agency SUNA said the Court of Cassation canceled the death sentence against 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim after defense lawyers presented their case. Her lawyer, Eman Abdul-Rahim, told The Associated Press that Ibrahim has left prison and is with her husband and two small children, who had been with her in jail.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Christian mother, was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian. Sudan's penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions, a crime punishable by death.

Ibrahim married a Christian man from southern Sudan in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.

Ibrahim has a son, 18-month-old Martin, who was living with her in jail, where she gave birth to a second child last month. By law, children must follow their father's religion.

The sentence drew international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it "abhorrent." The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who had met with the Sudanese Ambassador to discuss Ibrahim's case, described the release as "a huge first step."

"But the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane heading to the United States," he added. It's not clear whether Ibrahim had planned to travel to the United States.

Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law 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. 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, has said 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.

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