31 May 2014

Sudanese Mother Facing Apostasy Death Sentence 'To Be Released Soon'

A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy, who gave birth to a daughter in custody this week, may receive a reprieve. A Foreign Ministry official has said that he expects "her to be released soon."

An under-secretary in the Sudanese Foreign Ministry told several sources on Saturday that the country was working on means to release Meriam Ibrahim, the convert to Christianity who is facing a death sentence for turning from Islam.

"The related authorities in the country are working to release Meriam [Ibrahim], who was sentenced to death for apostasy, through legal measures," the ministry's Abdelah Al-Azrak told Reuters, after issuing similar comments to other sources, starting with the BBC. The diplomat is a former Sudanese ambassador to the United Kingdom.

"I expect her to be released soon," he said.

Ibrahim, 27, was condemned on May 15 under Sudan's Islamic sharia law, which outlaws the abandoning of Islam on pain of death. She was raised an Orthodox Christian, but a Sudanese judge ruled that the should be regarded as a Muslim because that was her father's faith.

She gave birth in her prison cell on Wednesday to a baby girl, her second child with husband and Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

UK political appeals precede 'announcement'

Prior to Al-Azrak's comments to international media, British political leaders had expressed outrage over Ibrahim's detention.

"I am absolutely appalled by the decision to sentence Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to death," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement. "The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today's world. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right."

Opposition leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had both called the detention "abhorrent," while former premier Tony Blair said justifying her treatment in the name of religion was "a brutal and sickening distortion of faith."

"We must fight to protect freedom of belief, strive to allow people to worship the god they want or to worship none," Blair wrote in newspaper The Times on Saturday. Former defense secretary Liam Fox said Britain should reconsider whether it was acceptable to give aid money to countries that allow such treatment.

msh/rc (AFP, AP)

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