KHARTOUM, Sudan – A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death by hanging for refusing to convert to Islam will soon be freed, reports state.
As previously reported, Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was officially sentenced on May 15th after she was convicted of apostasy against Islam for professing to be an Orthodox Christian. Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, but was raised by an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother as the father left the home when Ibrahim was a child. In Sudan, children are expected to follow the religion of their fathers, and her father’s family had reportedly turned her into authorities for rejecting Islam.
Ibrahim was also sentenced to 100 lashes for allegedly committing “zena”—that is, having illegitimate sex by marrying a non-Muslim. The expectant mother married a professing Christian man, Daniel Wani, in 2011, and the two have an 18-month old son together, along with the child in Ibrahim’s womb. Sudanese law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, although men can marry whomever they wish without penalty.
Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy on May 11th for rejecting Islam and was given four days to recant, which would have saved her life. Unlike others who have faced similar sentences in Sudan, she refused to convert.
“I am a Christian,” she declared before the court, “and I will remain a Christian.”
“We gave you three days to recant, but you insist on not returning to Islam,” Judge Abbas Khalifa told Ibrahim, as reported by the AFP. “I sentence you to be hanged to death.”
The court had also ruled that after Ibrahim gives birth, she was to receive the 100 lashes, and would be permitted to nurse the child for two years before the execution would be carried out. On Tuesday, Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl in the hospital wing of the prison, who she named Maya.
But amid international outcry, reports state that Ibrahim will be freed by the Sudanese government and will not face death.
“The related authorities in the country are working to release Meriam through legal measures,” Abdullahi Alazreg, under-secretary at Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters on Saturday. “I expect her to be released soon.”
But some are skeptical of the announcement, including her attorney Elshareef Ali Mohammed.
“It’s a statement to silence the international media,” he said. “This is what the government does. We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison.”
“They could just be saying this just to get everyone off their backs. We have seen them do that before,” Tina Ramierez of the religious freedom organization Hardwired told MailOnline. “Its essential that we keep the pressure up until Meriam is actually freed.”
In the meantime, petitions continue to be underway worldwide calling for Ibrahim’s release. Amnesty International has reportedly gathered over 200,000 signatures in its petition drive, and the BeHeard project has over 305,000 signatures.