News Column

Sudan Releases Woman Condemned to Death for Apostasy

June 23, 2014

Harriet Sherwood,

A court in Khartoum has ordered the release of a Christian woman on death row, according to Sudan's state news agency.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and was to be hanged for apostasy after refusing to renounce her faith last month. Her case has become the focus of an international campaign.

"The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya [Ibrahim] and the cancellation of the [previous] court ruling," Sudan's SUNA news agency said on Monday.

Ibrahikm's lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, told the Guardian he heard the release announced on Sudanese radio but had no confirmation. He was on his way to the prison, where he was to meet Ibrahim's husband Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

"I'm going to check if this is true," Mohammed said.

Judges have been hearing an appeal against Ibrahim's convictions for the past two weeks. Her lawyers argued that the case was based on weak, contradictory and inconsistent claims, and contravened Sudan's interim constitution. After being imprisoned with her toddler son, Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter while shackled to the floor of her cell.

Wani, who has been permitted only brief visits to his family, said his wife and children were being held in inhumane conditions in Omdurman women's prison.

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy after the court insisted she was a Muslim because her father was a Muslim, even though Ibrahim said she had been brought up as a Christian after her father abandoned the family when she was six.

Her 2011 marriage to Wani was declared invalid, resulting in her conviction of adultery.

Following her convictions, Ibrahim was given three days to renounce her faith or face a death sentence.

The leaders of Britain's three main political parties backed a campaign to get Ibrahim released. The prime minister, David Cameron, said he was "absolutely appalled" by her sentences. "The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today's world. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right," he said.

The US state department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the case and called on Khartoum to respect the right to freedom of religion.

Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Jesse Jackson and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, were among high-profile international figures calling for the sentence to be dropped.


Original headline: Sudan announces release of Meriam Ibrahim from death row

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Source: (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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