Sudan releases woman sentenced to death for apostasy

Meriam Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in prison last month, after being sentenced to death. PHOTO:  EPA
Meriam Ibrahim has been released from death row in Sudan. This photo was taken in the prison where she was held and gave birth to a daughter last month. [PHOTO: EPA]

Originally published in Assist News

Yesterday (Monday, June 23, 2014), finally came the news that many around the world had prayed for -– that Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the young mother, sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for her refusal to renounce her Christian faith — was released along with her 19-month old son, Martin, and four-week old daughter, Maya, who was delivered in prison as Meriam was shackled to her bed.

They are now living in an undisclosed location until they can leave the country safely and possibly settle in the United States.

Tina Ramirez, the Executive Director of Hardwired Inc., a non-profit organization working to end religious oppression worldwide, said, “We are witnessing a historic moment — in the three decades of President Bashir’s brutal dictatorship millions have lost their lives, yet here stands one defenseless and innocent young pregnant woman who forced President Bashir to respect her dignity and religious freedom.”

danielwani
Daniel Wani visited his children in prison near Khartoum.

Ramirez continued, “Mariam called Bashir’s bluff. Her victory today is a victory for all the people of Sudan fighting against religious oppression and we cannot rest until everyone is freed from this dictatorship.”

Hardwired, she said, has provided resources and training on religious freedom and human rights law to the attorneys and those fighting for the release of Mariam in Sudan, as well as updating the international community about the ongoing developments in this case.

Mariam was sentenced to death for apostasy – i.e., changing one’s religion – and to 100 lashes for adultery on May 15, 2014. Her so-called crime? She was born to a Muslim father and Christian mother and, despite being raised as a Christian, was accused of converting to Christianity which is against Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Law of 1991.

Moreover, according to the Sudanese Family Law for Muslims of 1991, it is illegal for her to marry a Christian man if she were a Muslim, as accused.

Mariam was held in shackles at Omdurman Prison since May 15th, where she was forced to give birth to daughter, Maya, on May 25th in the health clinic’s unsanitary environment. Due to the death threats against her, she remains in an undisclosed location until she can leave the country safely.

Paperwork
Her America husband – Daniel Wani – is working with the US Embassy to process her paperwork to travel to the US with her husband and two children.

Ramirez, who originally comes from Huntington Beach, California, and holds a B.A. in History and Political Science and a M.A. in Education from Vanguard University in Southern California, went on to say, “The international support for Mariam as well as the support from the Sudanese people were critical factors in Mariam’s release, but others are imprisoned for apostasy that still need our help.”

While the sentence was overturned, she says, the criminal punishments for adultery and apostasy remain a threat to many others, such as Faiza Abdallah, a 37-year-old Christian woman, who on April 2, 2014, was arrested on charges of apostasy.

According to The Clarion Project (www.clarionproject.org), Abdallah was filing for a national identification card and the personnel noticed that she had an Islamic name, but listed her faith as Christianity. That’s all it took for her to be arrested. On April 8, the regime officially rescinded recognition of her marriage because Muslims cannot marry Christians.

“Abdallah was raised in an evangelical Christian household,” said a story on their website. “Her parents converted from Islam to Christianity, but never changed their names. The Islamic name remained and it is the sole evidence used by the Sudanese regime to assert that she was a Muslim.

“Like Meriam, she was never a Muslim. Yet, she still sits in a Sudanese prison waiting to find out if she’ll be sentenced to death. She could also be sentenced to lashings for adultery because of her marriage.”

The story added, “International pressure, especially American pressure, may be working on Sudan because it has long desired to be de-listed from the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The U.S. nearly did so in 2011.

“The sticking point has been Sudanese human rights abuses and the regime’s links to Hamas. Sudan is also increasingly close to Iran. In October 2012, a weapons factory in Khartoum went up in smoke, possibly due to foreign hands. The factory was part of an Iranian supply line to Hamas.”

“In 2013, Sudan continued to allow members of Hamas to travel, fundraise and live in Sudan,” the State Department says.

However, according to The Clarion Project, “The rest of the language was complimentary towards Sudan. The US said the regime is ‘a generally cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to take action to address threats to US interests and personnel in Sudan.’ It credited Sudan with taking steps against Al-Qaeda linked terrorists.”

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