Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for Being a Christian Might Not Be Freed, After All

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Yesterday, Sudanese officials told the media that a 27-year-old woman imprisoned and sentenced to death for being a Christian would be set free within a number of days, but now it seems that might not be the case. 

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, who was raised as an Orthodox Christian by her mother, was told by a Sudanese court back in May that she must renounce her faith. She refused, and received a sentence of death by hanging. Ibrahim was eight-months-pregnant during the apostasy trial, and last week gave birth while in prison. She is currently being held in jail, along with her other child, 20-month-old Martin. 

Ibrahim's father, who she has not seen since she was a child, is a Muslim, and Sudan's apostasy laws make it illegal to convert from the religion. Earlier, she had been sentenced to 100 lashes after a court annulled her marriage, deemed illegal, to a Christian man. 

The incident has raised international concern over Sudan's harsh apostasy laws. British Prime Minister David Cameron said in an interview last week that the sentence was "barbaric," and called on the Sudanese government to change it. He added that "the way she is being treated... has no place in today's world," concluding: 

I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children. The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act.

Human rights groups have also spoken out against the incident. An Amnesty International representative said that "The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered." 

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Sudan's government appeared to be bowing to the international condemnation. Over the weekend, the country's Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Abdelah Al-Azrak told Reuters that "The related authorities in the country are working to release Mariam (Yahya Ibrahim), who was sentenced to death for apostasy, through legal measures," adding, "I expect her to be released soon." But neither Ibrahim's lawyer or her husband, a U.S. citizen, said they knew of any plans for her release. And today Sudan's foreign ministry spokesman Abubakar Al-Sidiq also said he was not aware of any plans for her release. 

Meanwhile, Ibrahim's husband Daniel Wani says that he doesn't think his wife will back down. "I know my wife. She's committed," he said, adding, "I'm hoping that, given the way people have come together around the world — which I want to thank them for... perhaps it will result in the judgment being overturned." Under Sudanese law, only an appeals court has the power to release her.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.