Death row Sudanese Christian ‘apostate’ freed

June 23, 2014 4:56 pm


Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag sits in her cell at a women's prison in Omdurman, on May 28, 2014 after giving birth to a baby girl/FILE
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag sits in her cell at a women’s prison in Omdurman, on May 28, 2014 after giving birth to a baby girl/FILE
Khartoum, Jun 23 – A Sudanese Christian who gave birth in prison after being sentenced to hang for apostasy was freed on Monday, one of her lawyers said.

The case of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, sparked an outcry from Western governments and rights groups after a judge sentenced her to death on May 15.

“Meriam was released just about an hour ago,” Mohanad Mustafa told AFP on Monday afternoon.

“She’s now out of prison,” he said.

Born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, Ishag was convicted under Islamic sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

Her lawyers had appealed the verdict.

On Monday the higher court “issued a judgment on release of the prisoner Abrar Al-Hadi Mohamed Abdalla and dismissing the decree issued earlier by the first instance court,” the official SUNA news agency reported, using her father’s Muslim name.

Twelve days after the initial ruling, Ishag gave birth to a daughter at the women’s prison in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.

And a few days later, Ishag’s husband, Daniel Wani, told AFP he did not believe she would be freed.

The couple’s 20-month-old son was also incarcerated with Ishag and their daughter.

European Union leaders called for revocation of the “inhumane verdict,” while US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Khartoum to repeal its laws banning Muslims from converting.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the way she had been treated was “barbaric and has no place in today’s world”.

– ‘Never a Muslim’ –

“It’s great,” a Sudanese church source said of her release, after last week expressing optimism that she would be freed because of international pressure on Sudan.

Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, a senior official in the ruling National Congress Party, said international pressure had nothing to do with the decision to free Ishag.

Muslim scholars have divergent opinions on the issue of changing religion, and “jurisprudence in Islam is very broad,” allowing for a solution, he told AFP.

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said the group was delighted that “the unjust, inhumane and unwarranted sentences have been annulled”.

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