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Meriam Yeilah Ibrahim, a 27 year old doctor has a 20-month-old son who is in prison with her. She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes. Appeals have been launched to spare her.
Sentenced to hanging for rejecting the Muslim faith. In Sudan a judge has decided to sentence a Christian woman to death on charges of apostasy when she was in her eight month of pregnancy. 27-year-old Meriam Yeilah Ibrahim, a doctor, has a 20-month-old child who is in prison with her. The magistrate of a Khartoum court concluded that the woman had abandoned her faith, as her father was Muslim. She was sentenced to 100 lashes on charges of adultery, because she had married a Christian and the union was not considered valid under Sharia law.
The judge asked her to give up her faith: “We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the told the woman on Thursday, addressing her by her father’s Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah. The woman did not betray any emotion when the sentence was read out. Shortly before this, an Imam had spoken with the woman in the caged dock for about 30 minutes. She then calmly turned to the judge and said: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights protection group, the woman is the daughter of a Muslim Sudanese man and an Orthodox Ethiopian mother. After her father abandoned her at the age of 6, Meriam was raised in the Christian faith. But since the father is Muslim, Sudanese law considers her a Muslim too. This would make marriage to a non-Muslim null. According to the group’s spokesman, Kiri Kankhwende, in similar cases in the past, the Sudanese government had waited for the woman to give birth before proceeding with the deaths sentence.
Amnesty International said it was “disgusting” that a woman should be sentenced to death because of her religious faith or lashed because she was married to a man with a different religious faith. It is “frightful and horrific” said Manar Idriss, an Amnesty International researcher specializing in the Sudan, adding that “adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law.” The human rights NGO considers Meriam a prisoner of conscience, convicted solely because of her religious beliefs and identity. “We ask for her immediate and unconditional release,” Idriss stressed.
Some Western embassies in Khartoum had sent out appeals in her defense before the sentence was handed down. A statement issued by the US, British, Canadian and Dutch embassies in Khartoum reads: “We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in international human rights law, as well as in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution.”
Domenico Agasso jr