JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – As Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, sentenced to death for leaving Islam, gave birth early this morning in prison, another Christian woman in Sudan has been jailed for “apostasy,” sources said.
Ibrahim’s second child was born at about 3:30 a.m. in the Health Center Clinic of Omdurman Federal Prison for Women, her husband Daniel Wani told Morning Star News.
“She gave birth to a baby girl,” said Wani. “Her name is Maya.”
Ibrahim, 27, says she was born to a Muslim father who disappeared when she was 6, and that she was raised by her Ethiopan Orthodox Christian mother; she was considered a Muslim by birth and was sentenced on May 15 for leaving Islam, though she says she was raised a Christian and never practiced Islam.
A person claiming to be her relative last year told authorities that Ibrahim had left Islam, and without listening to any witnesses who came to testify in her defense, the court ruled that her name was actually Abrar Elhadi Muhammad Abdallah Abugadeen and that she was born to Muslim Sudanese parents.
“The court would not allow the witnesses to testify on behalf of Meriam,” a defense attorney told Morning Star News. “They did not consider her statements in her defense.”
Under Islamic law, upon which Sudanese law is based, the court also ruled that she had committed adultery for having married a Christian man and sentenced her to 100 lashes. Had her attorneys not filed to appeal her case, she would have received the flogging soon after giving birth, sources said.
One of her attorneys told Morning Star News that he has received a number of threatening phone calls from Islamic extremists for defending Ibrahim.
“They have threatened to kill me, saying that Meriam must recant her Christian faith,” said the attorney, who requested anonymity.
Since Morning Star News first revealed the case, protests from international media, Western embassies and rights groups around the globe have pressured the government of Sudan to regard religious choice as a fundamental human right, not a crime meriting the death penalty.
Wani, her husband, has U.S. citizenship, and Sudan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. has responded to the condemnation in a statement asserting the independence of its judiciary and that the death sentence was only a preliminary ruling, with appeals possible in the Appeal Court, Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.
“There was no government agency behind the case,” the statement read. “Rather her immediate family had reported their daughter as missing; later and after she was found and claimed that she is Christian, the family filed a case of apostasy against her.”
Ibrahim has said that she was a medical doctor who graduated from the University of Khartoum, but the court that condemned her refuted the assertion, saying that there was no record of her attending the university and that she was a lab technician who graduated from the Sudan University for Science and Technology.
Her lawyer said he did not know how the court reached that conclusion.
“The court has no proof of Meriam being a graduate of Sudan University for Science and Technology,” he said.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, released a statement today saying charges against Ibrahim are a violation of religious rights guaranteed under Sudan’s interim constitution and covenants Sudan has signed.
“We are pleased to hear that Mrs. Ibrahim and her baby are reportedly in good health; however, we urge the authorities to ensure that Mrs. Ibrahim’s husband and lawyers are granted access to see them, and that they are guaranteed medical attention,” Thomas said. “CSW continues to call upon the Sudanese authorities to annul the inhumane and unwarranted sentence given to Meriam Ibrahim, and to release her and her young children immediately.”
Second ‘Apostasy’ Case
In the town of El Gadarif on Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia, another Christian woman has been incarcerated under suspicion of having left Islam, Morning Star News has learned.
Immigration/Citizenship police questioned Faiza Abdalla, 37, as she was going to obtain her national identification number at an official building in El Gadarif on April 2, a source told Morning Star News. When she responded to officers’ questions about her religion that she was a Christian, they immediately arrested her based on her Muslim name, he said.
Her family had converted to Christianity from Islam before she was born but kept their former name, the source said.
“They arrested me because I am a Christian,” said Abdalla, originally from an area in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, where her parents raised her in an evangelical church.
As happened with Ibrahim and Wani, a court on April 8 terminated Abdalla’s marriage to her husband, a lifelong Catholic from South Sudan, on grounds that she had committed “adultery” by allegedly having left Islam and married a Christian. Abdalla’s husband fled the country two years ago because of persecution.
Immigration/Citizenship officials, who are responsible for issuing national IDs, routinely search for those who have left Islam to arrest and force them to return to the religion, the source said.
“Faiza Abdalla is a Christian, and her husband is a catechist,” said a Christian in Al Gaderif who grew up with her in the same community.
Church leaders and Christian activists in Al Gaderif went to police to ask for the release of Abdalla, without success, the source said. Church leaders in the town say they are upset by a new wave of persecution against Christians.
“We are asking all human rights groups and humanitarian groups to intervene against such acts,” said one church leader who asked to remain anonymous.
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