A Sudanese woman faces death by hanging after being convicted of apostasy, but not before she gives birth.
27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. She considers herself a Christian. Yet, in the eyes of the Muslim court, she is a Muslim who has committed a capital offense: turning her back on her religion.
“I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy,” Ibrahim told the court, according to the Telegraph.
Ibrahim’s own brother brought her case to the attention of the courts, claiming she had gone missing for years and that the family had been shocked to eventually learn she had married a Christian man from South Sudan.
Ibrahim was convicted last week in Khartoum after being offered a deal: go back on her Christian faith and escape death. She refused.
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged,” Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told Ibrahim of her grim fate.
Ibrahim was also sentenced to 100 lashes for the crime of adultery, since Islamic law does not recognize her marriage to a Christian man.
However, the court also ruled that Ibrahim will be allowed to give birth to her child before the execution. According to Sudanese law, a pregnant woman cannot be executed until she has given birth to and weaned her baby.
Ibrahim’s plight has gained international attention, with the embassies of Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands issuing a joint statement expressing “deep concern.”
“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,” they said.
Amnesty International is also defending Ibrahim, who was detained with her 20-month-old son while eight months pregnant.
“The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” a spokesperson for the organization said.
Ibrahim’s lawyer, Mohamed Jar Elnabi, says she intends to appeal the court’s decision.
Elnabi told CNN that the Sudanese constitution permits religious conversion, so her appeal should hold water.