CAIRO — A young Sudanese woman convicted of killing her husband while she claims he was raping her was sentenced to death on Thursday, one of her lawyers said, underscoring rampant human rights abuses in the African country that the West is increasingly courting for business and security interests.
Noura Hussein, 19, was forced into marriage by her parents three years ago and had initially fled her husband, refusing to consummate the marriage, lawyer Ahmed Sebair said by telephone.
The husband returned with relatives who held Hussein down while he raped her, the lawyer said. When the two were alone the next day and he attempted to rape her again, she managed to grab a knife he had used to threaten her and stabbed him to death with it. That was May 3 last year and Hussein has been in prison since.
Supporters of Hussein flocked to the Criminal Court in Omdurman, Sudan’s second-largest city, in protest during the trial. In recent years, women and children’s rights activists have increasingly campaigned against forced marriages of girls and marriage of underage girls, a widespread phenomenon in Sudan, where the law allows children over the age of 10 to marry.
The case became an internet sensation under the hashtag #JusticeForNoura, with people sending photos from around the world in her support.
Amnesty International slammed the sentence.
“Noura Hussein is a victim and the sentence against her is an intolerable act of cruelty,” Amnesty International’s deputy regional director Seif Magango said in a statement.
“The Sudanese authorities must quash this grossly unfair sentence and ensure that Noura gets a fair retrial that takes into account her mitigating circumstances.”
Witnesses who attended the proceedings posted online that Hussein’s family had abandoned her and she appeared alone during Thursday’s sentencing for her earlier murder conviction. They say that people who had gathered outside the courthouse with anti-death penalty signs were beaten by state security troops, notorious for abuse in Sudan’s police state.
Sudan is run by longtime autocrat President Omar al-Bashir, who the International Criminal Court has accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur during fighting since 2003.
Sebair says he and Hussein’s other lawyers are now appealing the death-by-hanging sentence that Hussein faces.
AFP contributed to this report.