Will Sudan Release Meriam?



Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and adultery, last month, has been freed, according to Sudanese media. It is reported that the authorities in Sudan planned to free the woman, who against all odds, refused to renounce her faith. With an ordeal that began in January, the mother of two is still behind bars, while nations rally behind her for her release.

Earlier this week, Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl at a clinic near the Omdurman Women’s Prison. Ibrahim, who attracted international clemency petitions for her situation, was arrested earlier last month on charges of adultery and apostasy – this while she was still pregnant with her second child. Refusing to deny her faith, Ibrahim stood firm as she received the judgement on the cases that have never  been tried before, according to the strict Sharia law that runs Sudan’s legal system.

David Wani with his new born baby.

A report from the Foreign Ministry, Sudan denied the release of the incarcerated Meriam Ibrahim, with Abubakar Al-Sidiq, a Ministry spokesman, denying knowledge of reports of plans to release her before any such rulings came from an appeals court. It is highly unlikely that Ibrahim will change her mind, in spite of the situation she is currently in. David Wani, her husband, who is a U.S. citizen of South Sudanese origin, was not sure about his wife’s release. In an interview released earlier, a distressed Wani, expressed his frustration at the situation. He insisted that Ibrahim, was a practicing Christian when he met her, and her faith exceeded his. Mentioning the legitimacy of his children, he could not understand how the children had been labelled so, seeing that they are biologically his. Wani’s son, Martin, who is over one-and-a half years old, has also been in the jail  for all this time, locked up behind Sudanese bars, for a crime he did not commit. Martin, he says, is baptized but the one-day old baby, has not yet been administered the rite. Wani, mentioned that his wife was frustrated at the proceedings, but thanked everyone who supported him profusely. He insisted that with international help, Ibrahim might be free, though the decision still hangs in the hands of the Sudanese courts.

While Western media outlets have been reporting that Ibrahim will be released, Wani himself denied knowledge of any such development in the case that has attracted international attention. A pardon from President Omar-al-Bashir is nearly impossible, leaving the judiciary, its only exit strategy that Sudan can use right now, to escape the mounting international pressure. As Sudan takes its time to deal with this situation, Wani confirmed that despite the rulings, Ibrahim has no intention of converting to Islam. The mother of two, who was born to a mostly absent Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother, said that the faith she practiced is the only one she knew. Wani confirmed that although clerics were sought to get Ibrahim, to convert, she would not do so. Wani says his support for his wife in the face of certain death would not waver, although he is concerned regarding the birth of his daughter. While the birth of his daughter has the family of four, and the grieving father especially ecstatic, the fear that the birth might tighten the noose on his wife, is on the back of his mind.

Wani, who is paralyzed and is forced to use a wheel chair, depends on his wife heavily to assist him everyday. Shell-shocked at the ordeal Ibrahim has been facing since January, Wani says that the allegations are untrue and are been pursued by people claiming to be relatives of the imprisoned Ibrahim. He said that he never these so-called relatives and also mentioned that Ibrahim was a Christian, raised in the Orthodox faith by her single mother since her father deserted them at the age of six. In a complaint against Ibrahim, the relatives apparently claimed that she had missing for years, shocking them all with her return as a Christian and nonetheless, married to one. Mohamed Jar Elnabi, the lawyer who is currently representing Ibrahim, also mentioned Wani’s understanding of how the situation had gotten out of hand, turning into an international issue of concern. Wani mentioned that the relatives initially filed a missing complaint, following the “disappearance” of their “sister” with the Sudanese police. Adding fuel to the proverbial fire, the relatives added the apostasy charge on to the adultery charge, that had warranted her arrest. Wani mentioned that although the police sought to dismiss the case, the relatives insisted that the charges be laid upon Ibrahim to be able to bring the case to the court, after she insisted that she was in fact, a Christian.

Sudan’s rulings on Ibrahim’s charges of adultery and apostasy involve a 100 lashes and a hanging, the latter being the first time the decision has been reported in history. Sharia law, did provide a reprieve to Ibrahim as it delayed the hanging for up to two years, as the law did not apply for expectant mothers who have not weaned their children for at least two years. When approached by CNN for comments on her expected release, the Ministry directed their requests to the Justice Ministry, saying that they cannot say anything until a ruling is passed.

With support pouring in from everyone including Mia Farrow, David Cameron and Tony Blair, the hopes and prayers of the supporters are what David Wani is counting on. David Wani, who flew from New Hampshire, stands firmly in supporting his wife as they wait anxiously, to see if Sudan will release Meriam Ibrahim and relieve her of the agony.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan

NY Daily Times