Confirmed: American's Pregnant Wife Faces Sudan Death Penalty for Not Renouncing Christian Faith
Update (May 15): Given until today to recant her faith by a Sudanese court, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim instead declared she remained a Christian at today's hearing. The judge at the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif Khartoum then confirmed her sentence of 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy.
"I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim," Ibrahim told the judge after a Muslim scholar spent 40 minutes persuading her to recant, reports Morning Star News, which first broke the news of Ibrahim's case. In response, the judge told her, "The court has sentenced you to be hanged till you are dead."
However, the sentence is to be carried out two years after her second child's birth later this month, not shortly after the birth as previously reported.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide confirmed the death sentence in the case drawing international attention, calling the ruling a "violation of the Sudanese Constitution and of international conventions to which Sudan is party."
Middle East Concern reports that Ibrahim's lawyer is appealing the ruling. Ibrahim's husband was also not permitted to witness the hearing, and has been denied visitation rights to see his wife and son while they are detained in prison.
Ahead of today's hearing, Amnesty International condemned Ibrahim's death sentence and called for her immediate release. According to Manar Idriss, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher:
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. 'Adultery' and 'apostasy' are acts which should not be considered crimes at all, let alone meet the international standard of "most serious crimes" in relation to the death penalty. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law.
World Watch Monitor reports more background on Ibrahim's case, including how her brother first notified authorities about her alleged adultery.
[Originally published on May 13 (9:04 a.m.) entitled "American's Wife Faces Sudan Death Penalty after Pregnancy"]
Mother's Day was not a happy day for Meriam Yahia Ibrahim. While her second child is almost due, the 27-year-old Sudanese doctor now faces execution for marrying a Christian.
Ibrahim has been imprisoned, along with her 20-month-old son, in Khartoum since February. She is married to a South Sudanese Christian with U.S. citizenship—Daniel Wani—but because her father was a Muslim, the state does not recognize her marriage and charged her with adultery and apostasy in March. Morning Star News (MSN) has chronicled her case.
On Sunday [May 11], Ibrahim drew a fresh round of activist attention after a court convicted her and sentenced her to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. MSN has the details. Middle East Concern reports that "there is no known precedent for such a verdict and sentence being issued by a Sudanese court against a follower of Jesus in recent times."
Ibrahim's case represents the increasing Islamization of Sudan ever since the 2011 secession of predominantly Christian South Sudan. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has made it clear that Sudan's political stance going forward is a "100 per cent Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western [influences]."
"Mrs Ibrahim's sentence is the latest and most significant in a series of repressive acts by the Sudanese government against religious minorities," said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). "If the sentence is carried out Mrs Ibrahim will become the first person to be executed for apostasy under the 1991 penal code, prompting concerns that the charge may increasingly be used against anyone who converts from Islam."
The sentence comes months after the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, Ammar Saleh, accused the government of negligence in addressing apostasy and urged it to "stand against Christianisation and come up with a long term solution to the problem." Although President al Bashir has repeatedly stated that Sudan's new constitution would be "100% Islamic" and wholly based on Shari'a law, the new constitution has yet to be finalised, leaving the interim constitution in place, which references Shari'a as a source of law and not as the basis of the constitution. Since the charges against Mrs Ibrahim are based on Shari'a law, the interim constitution still provides for her right to freedom of religion or belief.
The children of a Muslim father are automatically considered to be Muslims in Sudan, even though Ibrahim said she never practiced Islam. Her Muslim father left the family when she was six years old, and she was raised by her Christian mother.
Ibrahim was convicted by the El Haj Yousif Public Order Court of both crimes, and could be given 100 lashes for adultery and then put to death for apostasy soon after her baby is born later this month, according to human rights workers. The court implied that her sentence could be reduced or dismissed if she converts to Islam this week.
"Meriam is very weak and tired as the delivery day gets closer," a Justice Center Sudan worker told MSN. "The Sudanese authority keeps pushing Meriam to announce Islamic faith."
"She is psychologically tired," Wani told MSN. "My wife was never a Muslim. As an American citizen, I ask the people and government of the USA to help me."
The U.S. Embassy in Sudan asked him to provide a DNA test to prove he is the father of his son, Wani told MSN. Wani would have to meet U.S. requirements for his children to receive U.S. citizenship.
CT regularly reports on Sudan—No. 11 on the World Watch List for severe Christian persecution—including the Christian crackdown moving the nation closer to becoming "100 percent" Muslim, as well as the government's refusal to issue licenses to new churches.
CT has also reported on other Christians facing death penalties, including Asia Bibi sentenced for blasphemy in Pakistan, four missionaries who faced evangelism charges in Benghazi, and Christian converts who feared execution orders in Morocco.