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A Sudanese woman has been sentenced to death over her marriage to a Christian man and choice of religion. 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who is a practicing Christian and was convicted by a Khartoum court this week of apostasy, which is the renunciation of faith, because the court considered her to be Muslim. Additionally, the condemned woman, who is eight months pregnant and the mother of a toddler, was also convicted of adultery because her marriage to a Christian man was considered void under Sharia law.
Ibrahim had until Thursday to either recant her Christian faith and return to Islam or face a possible death sentence. She also faces a flogging sentence of 100 lashes over her adultery conviction because the court refused to recognize her marriage to a Christian man, Daniel Wani. The condemned woman was born to a Sudanese, Muslim father and an Ethiopian, Orthodox mother. The Sharia law court considered her to be Islamic or Muslim because her father was Muslim, despite the fact her father left the family when she was 6 years old, and Ibrahim was raised by her mother as a Christian.
As it turns out, the Sudanese woman, who has been sentenced to death over her marriage and religion, was reported by her brother, and the case started after Ibrahim’s brother filed a complaint against her. According to her brother, Ibrahim had gone missing for several years and her family was shocked to learn she had married a Christian man. Ibrahim is in her third trimester with her second child and currently in custody with her toddler son. According to Amnesty International, she is considered a prisoner of conscience.
The 27-year-old Christian woman, who is an expectant wife and mother, is left to face an uncertain future and unpredictable legal journey. Despite a Khartoum court condemning Ibrahim to death, a number of factors will ensure that there will be no execution any time soon. These factors include Sudan’s legal system, differences between its constitution and Sharia law imposed by the sentencing judge, and her pregnancy. Ibrahim’s lawyer argues the sentence should not be allowed to stand, and the international outcry spearheaded by such organizations as Amnesty International and many Western nations could ultimately pressure Sudan’s government to intervene in the case. However, if the death sentence does stand, Sharia law as practiced in Sudan would delay the death sentence on an expectant woman until two years after she has given birth to allow the child to breastfeed.
Before imposing the sentence, the court gave the condemned woman an opportunity to recant her Christian faith, but Ibrahim refused to do so and stated: “I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian.” Her attorney told CNN on Friday that he plans to ask an appeals court to review the sentence and they could file the appeal request as soon as Sunday. This action will initiate a legal process in which the case will work its way through Sudan’s Supreme Court and could reach the Constitutional Court, which serves as the nation’s highest court. Additionally, Ibrahim’s attorney stated there was no definite timetable for the appeal process. Moreover, any death sentence must be ratified by both the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court before it could be carried out.
According to Amnesty International, the fact that a Sudanese woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and flogged for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is beyond reason, has shocked the world, and should not be considered in modern times. One factor that could help Ibrahim in her appeal is that Sudan’s constitution allows religious conversion without restriction, and therefore, the verdict goes against its own constitution and protocols observed under regional and international law. However, Sudan also has a history of religious discrimination, especially under the reign of President Omar al-Bashir. Additionally, the country imposes Sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike and has carried out punishments for acts of “indecency” and “immorality” by floggings and amputations on a routine basis. Moreover, the U. S. State Department has placed Sudan on its list as one of the worst offenders of religious rights and it has remained there since 1999. Thus, the 27-year-old Ibrahim, who is an expectant wife and mother, is left to face an uncertain future and unpredictable legal journey while resolute in her Christian faith.
By Leigh Haugh