Religion

Sudanese Woman Sentenced To Death For Apostasy Gives Birth In Prison

| by Jared Keever

A Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christian beliefs has given birth to a baby girl in prison. 

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, gave birth Monday in the hospital wing of the women’s prison in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. She is married to a Christian man, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen from South Sudan.

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy — renouncing the Islamic faith — two weeks ago while she was eight months pregnant. She was sentenced to hang for the crime but Sudanese officials have said she will be allowed to nurse the child for two years before the death sentence is carried out, according to BBC News.

Sudanese law criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions. Women in the country are also prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. Ibrahim was sentenced last month after her father’s family told a court that she was born a Muslim and her name at birth was actually “Afdal.” 

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Ibrahim and her attorney argued that the woman’s father left her mother, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, when Ibrahim was a young girl.

“I was never a Muslim. I was raised a Christian from the start," Ibrahim told the court.

Many Sudanese people have been convicted of apostasy in recent years but most have escaped death by renouncing their new faiths and returning to Islam. Ibrahim was given the opportunity to do the same during a four-day “grace period” after the conviction but she refused to do so.

Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed, Ibrahim’s lawyer, said he plans to appeal the ruling.

"The judge has exceeded his mandate when he ruled that Meriam's marriage was void because her husband was out of her faith," Mohammed told The Associated Press. "He was thinking more of Islamic Shariah laws than of the country's laws and its constitution."

Sudan adopted Shariah law — a strict interpretation of Islamic law — in the early 1980s. When the mostly Christian southern part of the country seceded in 2011 to create South Sudan, Sudanese President Omar Bashir said he would enforce the laws more strictly since the non-Muslim part of the country was gone.

Ibrahim was also sentenced to receive 100 lashes for having illegitimate sex because the court refused to recognize her marriage to her Christian husband. Officials have said they will wait until she has recovered from the delivery of her daughter to carry out that sentence.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it was “deeply disturbed" by the court’s actions.

Amnesty International has also condemned the sentence, calling it “abhorrent.”

Sources: BBC News, The Associated Press