Legal Battle Over Teen Convert Ends with 18th Birthday

An Ohio judge released a runaway Christian teenager from state custody on Tuesday, her 18th birthday, effectively putting an end to a legal battle between her and her Muslim parents.

Since last August, Rifqa Bary's parents have been fighting to regain custody of their daughter after she ran away from home in fear that her conversion to Christianity would cost the then-17-year-old her life.

Bary claimed that her father had told her, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" and also added some time later, "I will kill you!"

Rifqa's attorney also filed court documents accusing the mosque her parents attend, Noor Islamic Cultural Center in the suburb of Columbus, Ohio, of having ties to militant extremists.

Rifqa's attorney told the judge that if even if her family doesn't harm her, Bary would be in danger from members of the mosque.

In Sri Lanka, from where the Bary family had emigrated, and in many Muslim societies, women who stray from strict cultural upbringings are often accused of bringing dishonor upon the family and are cast out or even killed.

Bary's father, Mohamed Bary, however, has vehemently denied ever threatening to kill his daughter for converting to Christianity and accuses the pastors she stayed with in Florida of "brainwashing" his daughter into believing she was in danger of an "honor killing."

Since the legal battle began, Bary has been living in foster homes – first in Florida and later in Ohio, where judges from both states eventually agreed jurisdiction in the custody case belonged.

Now that she is 18, Bary is free to live where she chooses.

But Bary still faces possible deportation to her native country, Sri Lanka, because of her illegal immigration status. The Ohio teen is presently trying to obtain special immigration status.

Bary declined to talk to the press after the short hearing Tuesday, when Magistrate Mary Goodrich of Franklin County Juvenile Court ended the involvement of the county children's services agency.