A Sudanese wife sentenced to death for abandoning Islam has been freed according to her lawyer, ending weeks of pressure from international governments and rights groups.
Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim, was raised in the Christian faith by her mother and, in 2011, married Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian man. Sudan’s laws forbid conversion from Islam to any other faith and the marriage and resulting child brought attention to the fact that a woman held by law to have been born into her father’s Muslim faith was living as a Christian. A Sharia court said that by doing so, she had abandoned her religious faith and was guilty of apostasy, which was held to carry the ultimate penalty under Islamic law in the country. While Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, Muslim men can marry outside their faith.
Meriam was jailed in February amid global condemnation for refusing to renounce Christianity. Two weeks ago, a report that Sudanese authorities were about to bow to international pressure proved to be wide of the mark. Since she was jailed in February, Meriam, who was jailed along with her 18-month-old son, has given birth to a daughter in captivity, the couple’s second child.
Speaking of news of her release, lawyer Elshareef Ali told reporters: “We are very happy about this and we are going to her now (…) she is on her way home.”
Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, a move that contributed to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.
Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power in a 1989 military coup, has said his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone..
A number of Sudanese citizens have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they all escaped execution by recanting their new faith.
STOP PRESS: BREAKING NEWS
Freed Sudan wife detained 24 hours later
A mother who was freed from death row for refusing to renounce Christianity has been apprehended just one day later while trying to leave Sudan, her lawyer told reporters on Tuesday.
Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was “very happy” after an appeals court on Monday overturned a death sentence imposed because she married a Christian man and allegedly turned her back on Islam. But lawyer Elshareef Ali Mohammed said a group of 50 security force personnel arrested her and family members during an angry confrontation at Khartoum’s airport on Tuesday.
Mohammed, who said he was at the airport with Ibrahim, said no reason was given for holding her. Britain’s Foreign Office said it had received confirmation that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service had detained Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani, an American citizen who told the Guardian following his wife’s release that he hoped they could start a new life in the US. The couple were with their two children at the time of their detention, including the baby Ibrahim gave birth to while she was on death row in a women’s prison.
According to a source, Meriam is not under arrest but is being questioned at a police station over the authenticity of an emergency travel document issued by South Sudan.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf downplayed the incident and said US officials would work with Khartoum to ensure the family would soon be on its way.
“They have not been arrested,” she added. “The government has assured us of their safety. The embassy has and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government.”