Pregnant Christian Sentenced to Death for ‘Apostasy’ Pressured to Embrace Islam

Woman given three days to recant faith.

Sudan flag (The World Factbook)

Sudan flag (The World Factbook)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A court in Sudan that sentenced a pregnant Christian to death for allegedly leaving Islam is pressuring her to recant in exchange for leniency, sources said.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a 27-year-old doctor from western Sudan in late-term pregnancy, faces execution for alleged “apostasy” and 100 lashes for marrying a Christian (“adultery”); according to Islamic law, the punishments would be administered soon after the birth of her baby.

The El Haj Yousif Public Order Court in Khartoum yesterday (May 11) told her she had until Thursday (May 15) to convert to Islam, suggesting she could receive a reduction/elimination of the sentence, rights workers said.

“Meriam is very weak and tired as the delivery day gets closer,” a worker for Justice Center Sudan told Morning Star News. “The Sudanese authority keeps pushing Meriam to announce Islamic faith. My lawyer friend thinks the pressure is so high she might announce Islam as her faith.”

Ibrahim was born in a small town in western Sudan to an Ethiopian Orthodox mother and a Muslim Sudanese father. Her father disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old, and witnesses have testified that her mother raised her in the Christian faith.

The court charged Ibrahim with apostasy and adultery on March 4, sources told Morning Star News. Ibrahim has been held in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison since Feb. 17 with her 20-month-old son.

No one has been executed for apostasy in Sudan since the Sudan Criminal Code of 1991 made it punishable by the death penalty.

“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,” said a statement from Middle East Concern.

Last year someone claiming to be a relative of Ibrahim opened a case against her and her husband, Daniel Wani, for alleged “adultery” under article 146 of the Sudan Criminal Code because he is a Christian, rights workers said. Wani was accused of proselytizing a Muslim, and eventually authorities added the apostasy charge to Ibrahim.

According to sharia (Islamic law), a Muslim woman who marries a non-Muslim man is committing adultery, and her children are not recognized as children of legal marriage, rights workers said. If Ibrahim is executed or remains in prison, the couple’s children would become wards of the state.

Khartoum state’s “public order” laws are based largely on strict Islamic law and give Public Order Police and judges wide latitude in arresting and sentencing suspects.

Married to a South Sudanese Christian who obtained U.S. citizenship several years ago, Ibrahim has been denied medical care for both her and her unborn child and has been beaten in prison, rights workers said.

Justice Center Sudan is fighting the court’s charges of apostasy and adultery based on constitutional rights to equality and freedom of religion. The center says constitutional rights should outweigh sharia. The Sudanese constitution stipulates Islamic law as a source of legislation, however, and since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to make Sudan a more strictly Islamic country.

Speaking after the sentencing, a British embassy representative in attendance condemned the ruling.

“The UK regards freedom of thought, conscience or belief, including the right to change your religion or belief, as a fundamental human right enshrined in international law,” the representative said. “We express grave concern over the apostasy ruling handed down today and call on the government of Sudan to uphold its international obligations on freedom of religion.”

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