NEW YORK – A Sudanese teen sentenced to death after killing her husband as he tried to rape her has appealed the ruling amid growing support by celebrities and on social media.
Lawyers defending 19-year-old Noura Hussein said they filed the appeal on Thursday, according to U.S. rights group Equality Now, which has worked with the Khartoum-based Seema Foundation to bring attention to the case.
Hussein faces death by hanging after a Shariah court, which follows Islamic religious laws, found her guilty of premeditated murder for stabbing her husband as he tried to rape her in April. It sentenced her to death earlier this month.
The case has drawn condemnation by the United Nations and international rights groups who have said Hussein is a victim of child marriage and acted in self-defense.
“Let it be known here today that Noura was a victim of child marriage, forced marriage, rape and denial of justice,” said a statement by Hussein’s defense team passed on to Equality Now.
“Noura and indeed the women and girls of Sudan have too often been treated as chattels to be traded and given away as though they are property and as though they have no rights,” it said.
After her marriage ceremony, Hussein refused to have sex with her husband who raped her as three of his male relatives restrained her.
A day later, as he attempted to rape her again and she struggled to stop him, she stabbed and killed him.
Hussein had a 15-day period to appeal following her sentencing on May 10.
Celebrities from model Naomi Campbell to actresses Emma Watson and Mira Sorvino have promoted an online campaign to rescue the teenager, adopting the hashtag #JusticeForNoura in Twitter messages of support.
“Her life hangs in the balance,” said Sorvino in a tweet on Tuesday.
She urged her fans to sign an online petition calling on the government of Sudan not to execute Hussein. The petition on Change.org has garnered more than 1.1 million signatures.
Agencies U.N. Women, U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Office of the Special Advisor on Africa have all appealed to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government for clemency for Hussein.
Sudan is ranked 165 out of 188 countries on the U.N.’s Gender Inequality Index, which measures how women fare compared to men in terms of access to health, education, political participation and employment opportunities.
UN Women says violence against women and girls is prevalent in Sudan. Marital rape and child marriage are not considered crimes in the predominately Muslim African nation.