Report: Christian Woman Sentenced to Death in Sudan for Apostasy Will Not Be Freed After All

Daniel Doherty

6/2/2014 1:50:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan is an avowed Orthodox Christian and was raised by her mother in that tradition. But because a Sudanese judge recently determined that her father was Muslim -- and therefore under Islamic law, she was too -- he sentenced her to death for apostasy. She of course refused to repudiate her Christian beliefs and convert to Islam, and thus has been rotting in prison with her two infant children ever since. Her life is quite literally hanging in the balance: she must either renounce her Christian faith or suffer martyrdom by hanging.

But late last week there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. Several reputable media outlets reported that Sudanese officials were ready to capitulate and approve Ibrahim’s release. But alas, those reports turned out to be groundless. CNN dropped this bombshell over the weekend:

Sudan's foreign ministry denied published reports that a woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith is expected to be released.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abubakar Al-Sidiq said that he is not aware of any plans to release Mariam Yahya Ibrahim before a ruling from an appeals court.

Ibrahim was condemned to die by hanging after she declined to profess she is a Muslim, the religion of her father. Sharia law considers her a Muslim and does not recognize her marriage to a Christian. She is unlikely to change her mind despite giving birth in prison, says her husband Daniel Wani, who also is a Christian.

Some Western media outlets have reported that Ibrahim would be released in a few days, but her husband said that only the appeals court could free his wife.

"I'm not aware that any release is imminent," Wani told CNN.

The article notes that the president of Sudan cannot pardon her unilaterally or through executive action -- despite international calls for him to do so. His hands are tied. The judiciary, then, must decide her fate.

The only good news is that the execution has been stayed for two years: under Islamic law, newborn mothers cannot be executed until their children are properly weaned. This can and should give the West and its allies more time to secure her freedom. In the meantime, the clock’s ticking.