Sudanese officials have denied claims that a Christian woman, sentenced to death for apostasy, will be freed soon.
The Associated Press reported last week that Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to die by a Sudanese court, who found that she was born to a Muslim father but renounced her faith and converted to Christianity. Under Sharia law — a strict adherence to Muslim law that is followed in Sudan — such a conversion is punishable by death.
Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in prison last week. Members of the Sudan government said she would be allowed to nurse the baby for two years before the death sentence is carried out.
Her defense attorneys are mounting an appeal to the death sentence.
Ibrahim’s supporters believed they had received some good news at the end of last week when a foreign ministry under-secretary told Reuters that she would be freed.
"The related authorities in the country are working to release Meriam, who was sentenced to death for apostasy, through legal measures," he said. “I expect her to be released soon.”
But a statement, released this week by the foreign ministry, says that the quote from the official was misunderstood.
The statement claims that what the under-secretary told the media was that “the defense team of the concerned citizen has appealed the verdict ... and if the appeals court rules in her favor, she will be released."
“The government does not interfere in the work of the judiciary because it is an independent body,” the statement says. "Some media took what the under-secretary said out of context, changing the meaning of what he said.”
Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen, is working with her attorneys to have his wife freed but he does not have much hope that it will happen.
"No one has contacted me and I don't think it will happen. We have submitted an appeal but they have not looked at it yet, so how is it that they will release her?" he told The Guardian.
Although Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, she said during her trial that she had never been a Muslim herself and that her father abandoned the family when she was young.
She was offered an opportunity after sentencing to renounce her Christian faith, an action that saves many who are sentenced to death for apostasy. She refused to do so.