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Christian convert to stay in Fla. for now

Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:10 AM   |   Comments

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A girl who says she ran away from home after her father threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity can stay in Florida -- for now, a judge has ruled.

Orange County Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson ordered Friday that Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, be allowed to stay in Orlando until courts decide who gets custody of her, the St. Petersburg Times reported Saturday. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Fathima, who says her Muslim father would kill her if she returned home, took a bus to Orlando in mid-July and stayed nearly three weeks in the home of an evangelical pastor, the Times said.

On Aug. 10, she appeared on WFTV-Channel 9, Orlando, and said, "My life is at stake!"

Since then, she has been in foster care, the Times said.

Fathima wants to stay in Orlando with her foster family until she turns 18, attorney John Stemberger, a conservative Christian activist, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Fathima's Muslim parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, said at a hearing Friday they do not want to kill their daughter, but do want her to come home.

The case has attracted widespread attention, and more than 400 people have sent e-mails to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist demanding he intervene to protect the girl, the Sentinel said.

"The first and only priority of my administration is the safety and well-being of this child," Crist said in a statement Friday.

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