Sudanese woman may be spared death penalty

Sunday 01 June 2014 09.32
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim had been sentenced to death by the court near Khartoum
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim had been sentenced to death by the court near Khartoum

A woman sentenced to death in Sudan after marrying a Christian could be released within days, according to reports.

A senior Khartoum official has told the BBC that Meriam Ibrahim will be freed following worldwide protests about her treatment.

There has been worldwide condemnation of the "barbaric" punishment of the 27-year-old, who gave birth to a daughter this week while shackled in her cell.

Ms Ibrahim was raised a Christian by her mother and has refused to renounce the faith.

However, a court ruled earlier this month that she is Muslim because that was her father's faith.

Her Christian marriage was annulled and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for renouncing Islam.

Sex outside a "lawful relationship" is regarded as adultery under Sudanese law.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was condemned on 15 May under Islamic sharia law.

Sharia law has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

Her husband said he had visited her in jail and that she and their daughter are well.

Daniel Wani, a US citizen originally from South Sudan, told AFP he had visited Ms Ishag and the baby on Thursday, after being denied access earlier in the week, and that they were both in "good health."

He said he had obtained permission from the authorities to see them two days a week.

He also disclosed that he had sought permission for his wife to be transferred to a hospital to give birth, but that this was refused.

"We were afraid, but God protected her," he said.

Ms Ishag already has a 20-month-old son, who is also incarcerated with her, rights activists say.

Ms Ishag was born to a Muslim father but told the court, before Judge Abbas Mohammed al-Khalifa passed the verdict against her: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

The judge said to her: "We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged."

He also sentenced her to 100 lashes for "adultery."

Under Sudan's interpretation of sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, so any such relationship is regarded as adulterous.

United Nations rights experts have called the conviction "outrageous" and said it must be overturned.

Ms Ishag should be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before any death sentence is carried out, legal experts have said. 

If she is hanged, Ms Ishag will be the first person executed for apostasy under the 1991 penal code, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British-based group working for religious freedom.

Gilmore describes death sentence as 'inhumane'

The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has strongly condemned the inhumane death sentence handed down to Ms Ishaq.

A statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the Irish Embassy in Cairo, which covers Sudan, continues to follow the case of Ms Ishaq closely. 

It said the Government along with the EU are completely opposed to the death penalty in all cases.  

The statement said the Government attached the utmost importance to combating all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief.