'Apostates' political party denied approval in Sudan

Sudanese authorities have refused to register a political party based on the ideas of a peaceful Muslim activist who was hanged for apostasy, his daughter said on Sunday.

Asma Mahmud Muhammad Taha had sought official permission to revive the Republican Party of Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, who was hanged on January 18, 1985 under the regime of former president Jaafar Nimeiri.

She said that the Political Parties Affairs Council gave the party preliminary approval but then reversed its decision after hardline Islamists objected that "these people are apostates".

Mohammed Adam Ismail, secretary general of the Council, said the denial was based "on pure legal grounds" although some people had voiced objection to it.

"They didn't meet all the requirements," Ismail told AFP.

Although the Republicans lack official sanction, Asma Mahmud said they are carrying out their activities anyway.

"We are going to have this right, no matter what," she said.

Before he was hanged, Taha had criticised Nimeiri's imposition of Islamic sharia law which imposed amputations and other harsh punishments.

Taha said the poor were being unfairly targeted.

In 1986 Sudan's top court annulled the entire case against him.

Taha was the last person to be hanged for "apostasy" in Sudan, his daughter said, calling "very unusual" the death sentence passed last Thursday against a Christian woman convicted of the same crime.

A judge in the Khartoum area sentenced Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, to hang after she refused to recant.

The conviction came under sharia law that outlaws conversions of faith on pain of death.

Rights activists said Ishag is pregnant and married to a Christian. She was raised a Christian by her mother after her Muslim father left the family, the activists said.