Sudan Commutes Death Sentence of Pregnant Christian

Following International Uproar

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ROME, FEB. 10, 2002 ( A Sudanese woman condemned to death by stoning for being pregnant will not be killed, the Sudanese government said Saturday in a message sent to the Community of Sant´Egidio.

Abok Alfa Akok, 18, was sentenced by the Court of Nyala, in the Darfur region. She protested her innocence, saying she had been raped. During the trial, which was conducted in Arabic, a language she does not understand, Akok had no right to defend herself.

On Feb. 7, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, president of Vatican Radio´s administration committee, appealed to all Christians and people of good will to join in a campaign of protest against Sudan.

The next day, Sant´Egidio, a Rome-based Catholic movement, launched an international appeal addressed to President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of Sudan, and all the members of the government.

Mario Marazziti, spokesman of Sant´Egidio, told Vatican Radio today: “We are very happy, but we are still holding our breath. We are looking for other kinds of confirmations.”

The message, written by Khartoum government officials, said the sentence “has been reversed by the Upper Court.”

Marazziti added that, according to the explanation Saturday by a Sudanese government representative, “the death sentence was lifted, although a sentence will be upheld for minor offenses.”

The Sant´Egidio spokesman explained that Sudan reversed itself when international observers noted that that the sentence was an application of Islamic law, although the court was civilian, not religious, and that the accused was a Christian, not a Muslim — an unprecedented case.

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