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Italy works to save Sudanese woman

Italy is working to save the life of a pregnant Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith.

Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was convicted of "apostasy" on Sunday and given four days to repent and escape death. She was sentenced after that grace period expired.

The United States, the United Nations and Amnesty International among others have condemned the sentence.

Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini said she has pressed the case with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

"We have been following the case through our embassy since before her sentence was made public," she said.

Italy is a strong opponent of the death penalty, much like other countries in Western Europe that abolished capital punishment a long time ago.

Among other initiatives, it is pushing a General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

Sudan's penal code criminalises the conversion of Muslims into other religions, which is punishable by death.

As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are forbidden to marry non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father's religion.

Ms Ibrahim, 26, and her Christian husband married in a formal church ceremony in 2011 and have a son, 18-month-old Martin, who is with her in jail outside Khartoum. She is eight months pregnant.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said yesterday the organisation's human rights arm was deeply concerned about her physical and mental well-being, and that of her son.

He urged Sudan "to meet its obligations under international law to protect the right to freedom of religion".

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