Sudan rebuts reports it will free mother sentenced to death
A group of 15 Christians representing various evangelical organisations picketed the Sudanese Embassy in Pretoria at lunch time today (June 3, 2014) and handed over a memorandum demanding the release of Meriam Ibrahim, 27, who has been sentenced to death for refusing to convert to Isalm.
Supporting organisations for the memorandum included the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA), Student Union for Christian Action (SUCA), Student Christian Organisation (SCO), ChristianView Network and the YMCA.
Meanwhile Sudan’s foreign ministry has rebutted reports of the imminent freeing of the 27-year-old Christian medical doctor who gave birth to a baby girl on May 28, while shackled in prison. It says her fate depends on a court accepting an appeal request made by her defence team. News reports at the weekend had said Ibrahim was to be freed but Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement “the defense team of the concerned citizen has appealed the verdict … and if the appeals court rules in her favor, she will be released.”
Ibrahim was also sentenced on May 15 to 100 lashes for adultery because her marriage to a Christian man was ruled unlawful. The lashes are due within 10 days and the prison is disease ridden, thus posing a risk to her newborn child – both of these issues raising the urgency to have her released. Since her sentencing another Christian woman in Sudan, Faiza Abdalla, 37, has been incarcerated under suspicion of having left Islam.
The text of the memorandum that was handed over at the Sudanese Embassy in Pretoria reads: “We as Christians in South Africa note with outrage the recent apostasy ruling against Ms Meriam Yahia Ibhrahim Ishag by a Sudanese Court in Khartoum.
“The above ruling is a clear violation of international law and against the right of ordinary citizens to a freedom of religion and the right to change to any religion of their choice.
“We are particularly outraged at the continued detention of a mother and her newborn child.
“We wish to call on the Sudanese government to release her and her young child without delay. We further wish to call on the Sudanese government to respect international human rights, including the right to conscience and freedom of religion.
“We are further noting the Sudanese government’s track record of the persecution of Christians.”
Ecumenical News reports that a lawyer for Ibrahim, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, told the Belfast Telegraph newspaper today: “We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison.
“If [Sudan’s authorities] were to release her, the announcement would come from the appeal court, not from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the Agence France-Presse news agency reported on Monday.
The foreign ministry statement said according to AFP, “The government does not interfere in the work of the judiciary because it is an independent body.”
The US and UK governments have condemned her treatment as “barbaric” and British Prime Minister David Cameron had called for her to be freed, as has former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
A petition calling for her release by Amnesty International has drawn more than 900 000 signatures and there has been world-wide outrage about the punishment.
A group of UN experts said on May 19 that Ibrahim’s trial did not comply with basic fair trial and due process guarantees.
“This outrageous conviction must be overturned and Ms. Ibrahim must be immediately released,” urged the U.N. experts. They also called on the Sudanese government to repeal all legislation that discriminates on the grounds of gender or religion.
“Choosing and/or changing one’s religion is not a crime at all; on the contrary, it is a basic human right,” said the experts.
Some newspapers have speculated that due to international pressure Sudan could grant her a pardon, but there has been no indication about such a move from the authorities in Khartoum.
Born to a Muslim father, Ibrahim was raised as a Christian by her mother, but Sudanese law states a child must follow a father’s religion. She was convicted of apostasy and adultery for marrying a non-Muslim.
The Sudanese court dissolved her three-year-long marriage, and ordered that Ibrahim be lashed 100 times and later hanged.
She was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013 after a family member claimed that she was committing adultery because her marriage was invalid, as her South Sudanese husband is a Christian. The court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when Meriam insisted she is a Christian and not a Muslim. Sudan’s Criminal Code states that a pregnant woman sentenced to death must give birth and nurse her child for two years before her execution can be carried out.