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Published: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 5:22:59 AM
Updated: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 5:24:37 AM

Sudanese family lawyer drops lawsuit against Christian woman

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A lawsuit brought by a Sudanese Muslim father against a Christian woman to formally establish her as his Muslim daughter was dropped on Wednesday, the lawyer handling the case said, a move that could allow her to depart for the United States.

The case of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, raised an international furore when a Sudanese court sentenced her to death in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American.

Ibrahim says she was born and raised as a Christian by an Ethiopian family in Sudan and was later abducted by the Sudanese Muslim family. The Muslim family denies that and insists she belongs to them.

An appeals court quashed the death sentence late last month, but the government accused her of trying to leave Sudan with falsified South Sudanese travel papers, preventing her departure for America with her husband and two children.

The government has not formally dropped its accusation but Ibrahim was allowed to leave police custody after a brief detention on June 26.

Even after lifting the death penalty, Sudan refused to acknowledge Ibrahim's new identity as a South-Sudanese Christian, and the lawsuit by her family raised another obstacle to her departure.

On Wednesday however, Abdel Rahman Malek, the family's lawyer, said they had dropped the lawsuit before the first scheduled hearing in Khartoum Family Court on Thursday.

"We are no longer proceeding with the lawsuit," Malek told Reuters. He declined to give a reason for the decision or provide further details. Ibrahim's lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said his client had not been notified of the development.

Ibrahim's case has been under scrutiny from Washington and London, which in May summoned Khartoum's charge d'affaires to protest over Ibrahim's death sentence and urged Sudan to uphold international obligations on freedom of religion and belief.

Under Sudan's Islamic religious law, Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men.

Ibrahim, her husband and children have been staying at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum since her release from police custody.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdel Aziz in Khartoum; Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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