Khartoum’s foreign ministry officials say Meriam Ishag will be released ‘within days’
KHARTOUM, Sudan — A Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy will be “freed within days,” a foreign ministry official told AFP Saturday, after her case triggered an international outcry.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was condemned to death on May 15 under the Islamic sharia law that has been in place since 1983 and outlaws conversions under pain of death.
“The lady will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice,” said Abdullah al-Azraq, a foreign ministry undersecretary.
Azraq, who spoke via telephone from London, did not elaborate.
The 27-year-old gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday in a women’s prison in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.
Her husband, US citizen Daniel Wani, visited Ishag and the baby on Thursday, after being denied access earlier in the week, and told AFP both were in “good health.”
Ishag was born to a Muslim father but told the court during her trial that she had never been a Muslim herself.
The court gave her three days to “recant” her faith and when she refused, telling the judge “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.” Ishag was handed the death penalty and sentenced to 100 lashes for “adultery.”
Under Sudan’s interpretation of sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, so any such relationship is regarded as adulterous.
Her case sparked international condemnation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday he was “appalled” by the “barbaric” sentence given to Ishag.
Britain and Canada had summoned the Sudanese envoys to their countries last week and told them the sentence violated Sudan’s international human rights obligations.
“We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs,” the embassies of the United States, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands said in a statement after Ishag’s conviction.
That right is included in Sudan’s 2005 interim constitution as well as in international human rights law, they said.
Amnesty International said that Ishag had been condemned to death for offenses that should not be considered crimes at all.
“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,” the group’s Sudan researcher Manar Idriss said.
Amnesty said Ishag was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her Muslim father was absent.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told AFP earlier that Sudan is not unique in its law against apostasy.
“In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion,” he said.
United Nations experts have called the conviction “outrageous” and said it must be overturned.
An appeal was filed against the verdict but defense attorney Mohannad Mustapha said a hearing that was to have been held on Wednesday was postponed because the case file was incomplete. A Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy will be “freed within days,” a foreign ministry official told AFP on Saturday.