Lawyers for a pregnant Sudanese woman plan to appeal an Islamic judge's decision that she be flogged with 100 lashes and then be hanged for marrying a Christian man and converting.
Amnesty International and Western embassies are expressing alarm over the harsh sentence meted out to Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, who is eight months pregnant.
So far the only concession granted by the Islamic court is to wait until Ishag gives birth before carrying out the sentence.
Amnesty International called the court's ruling "truly abhorrent." The organization's Sudan researcher Manar Idriss said that "adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law."
Western embassies in Sudan including the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands also echoing that sentiment issued a joint statement expressing "deep concern" about the case and urged Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion.
Amal Habany, a political activist in support of women's rights, said "The court has no appearance of justice or respect for freedom of choice in ones beliefs, personally and individually."
Despite the outrcy, the Islamic court has been unmoved.
The judge told Ishaq, "We gave you three days to recant, but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death." Officially her crime is apostasy.
Ishaq replied, "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."
The judge also ruled that her marriage to a Christian man was invalid and not recognized under Islamic law, which means that she had committed adultery. He ordered her to be flogged for that alleged offense.
After the sentence was decreed, the prosecutor's spokesman Ahmad Hassan told the Associated Press that "they were given ample time to prove their innocence, but I for one believe in upholding our traditions and customs as Sudanese."