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Sudanese woman condemned to death for apostasy

16 May 2014


Reminder: The minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, has urged the Government of Sudan to uphold its international human rights obligations          

Reminder: The minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, has urged the Government of Sudan to uphold its international human rights obligations   &nbs...

A SUDANESE woman has been sentenced to death after being convicted of apostasy last week.

Meriam Ibrahim, aged 26, was convicted on Sunday, but given four days to reconvert to Islam and escape the death penalty. Mrs Ibrahim, who is pregnant, denied that she had ever been a Muslim.

She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery, because the Islamic sharia court did not recognise her marriage to her Christian husband as legitimate.

Reports suggest that Mrs Ibrahim was the daughter of an Christian woman and a Muslim Sudanese man. However, she was raised as a Christian after her father left the family when she was a young child.

She married her husband in 2011 and the couple have an 18-month-old son together. The advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement on Thursday that Mrs Ibrahim and her young son, Daniel Wani, are currently in prison. Her lawyers have said that they intend to appeal both the death sentence and the 100 lashes.

The minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said in a statement on Thursday: "This barbaric sentence highlights the stark divide between the practices of the Sudanese courts and the country's international human rights obligations. I urge the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief."

On Monday, a Sudanese diplomat was summoned from his embassy to the Foreign Office by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, to discuss Mrs Ibrahim's case.

A Foreign Office statement said that the diplomat, Charge d'Affaires Bukhari Afandi, was told that the Government had deep concerns about the death sentence and requested that he urge the Sudanese government to overturn the decision.  

Muslim women in Sudan are banned from marrying non-Muslims, and children must follow their father's religion by law. Despite the introduction of sharia law in the 1980s, death sentences are rarely carried out.

On Thursday, the BBC reported that rival groups of protestors, both for and against Mrs Ibrahim's death sentence, confronted each other outside the court, but the clashes did not become violent.

The death sentence has been denounced by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: "Isn't there something fundamentally wrong with Islam at its core that it cannot allow people to change their religion? Moderate Muslims ... have to say enough is enough."

He also said that British Muslim leaders should publically acknowledge that Muslims could convert to Christianity if they wished.

Andy Dipper, the chief operating officer of CSW, said: "CSW continues to call for the annulment of the inhumane and unwarranted sentence and for the immediate release of Mrs Ibrahim and her son, who is being held in violation of article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child."

The statement from CSW also said that Mrs Ibrahim had been prevented from accessing necessary medical treatment and from receiving visitors while incarcerated.

The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, denounced both Mrs Ibrahim's sentence and the forced conversion to Islam of more than 200 Christian schoolgirls in Nigeria following their abduction by Boko Haram ( News, 16 May).

In a statement on Friday, he said: "We must not forget those around the world who continue to face intense persecution for merely attempting to live out their chosen faith. We also continue to pray and advocate for the rights of these individuals and communities so that this God-given freedom may be exercised within the context of peaceful co-existence and cohesion."

On Thursday, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher, Manar Idriss, said: "The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent."      

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