Sudan Woman Facing Death for Apostasy Gives Birth in Prison
A pregnant Sudanese woman sentenced to death after refusing to renounce her Christian faith in favor of Islam gave birth in prison.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, gave birth to a girl early today in the hospital wing of a prison in Omdurman, the twin city of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, one of her lawyers, Elshareef Ali, said by phone. Ibrahim’s 20-month-old son has been detained with her since late February and she will nurse her newborn daughter in prison, Ali said.
Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy and adultery by a court in Khartoum on May 11 in a case that’s sparked criticism from the U.S., U.K. and international rights groups including Amnesty International. The court gave her three days to recant her faith and sentenced her to death by hanging when she refused. Under Sudanese law, a pregnant woman can’t be executed until giving birth and raising the child for two years, according to Amnesty.
Her legal team lodged an appeal with the Sudanese court on May 22, saying the verdict contradicts the country’s 2005 constitution, which enshrines freedom of religion, as well as international rights agreements to which Sudan is a signatory, Ali said.
“The judge discriminated against Meriam because of her Christianity,” Ali said by phone on May 22. “Sudan’s legal code stipulates that courts should uphold the constitution if it contradicts with any law -- that didn’t happen with Meriam.”
Ibrahim “enjoyed all the necessary requirements for a fair trial as a constitutional right,” the Sudanese judiciary said May 18 in a statement published by Suna, the state news agency. Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Abu Bakr al-Sideeg said the government respects the independence of the judiciary and doesn’t interfere in its decisions.
Ibrahim’s mother was an Ethiopian Christian and her father a Sudanese Muslim who left them when she was six years old, her husband Daniel Wani said in a May 21 phone interview from Khartoum. She was raised a Christian in Sudan and married Wani in 2011, shortly after the death of her mother, he said. Wani, a U.S. citizen, has mostly lived in that country since leaving Sudan.
Ibrahim was arrested in August after men who said they were from her father’s side of the family reportedly accused her of adultery, Amnesty said in a May 13 statement. Under Sudan’s interpretation of Islamic law, marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man isn’t permitted, with any such union considered adultery, the rights group said.
An apostasy charge was added in February when Ibrahim said she was Christian, not Muslim. In addition to the death sentence, the court annulled Ibrahim and Wani’s marriage and ordered she be lashed 100 times for adultery.
The men said Ibrahim’s real name is Abrar al-Hady, the Khartoum-based al-Taghyeer newspaper cited their lawyer, Abdel Rahman Malek, as saying last week. They presented a Sudanese nationality document to the court with that name and her fingerprints, Malek said.
Wani said he’d never met anyone from Ibrahim’s family because her mother was an Ethiopian refugee who had no relatives in Sudan. He said he met Ibrahim through his sister, who attended the same church. Two witnesses testified on Ibrahim’s side yet the court refused the court’s request to summon her father, Ali said.
“She was never a Muslim, she was always a Christian,” Ali said. “And even if she renounced Islam, she should not be punished for that.”
Wani wasn’t allowed to visit his newborn daughter after making a request to prison authorities, he said today by phone.
“We call on the world to ask the Sudanese government to drop the verdict and just let us live our normal lives,” Wani said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ahmed Feteha in Khartoum at firstname.lastname@example.org