May 16, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s parliament speaker, al-Fatih Izz Al-Din, has downplayed the death sentence against a Christian woman accused of apostasy saying it is a preliminary ruling which could be appealed in the various stages of the judicial process.
- Sudan’s newly appointed parliament speaker Al-Fatih Izz Al-Deen (SUNA)
Izz Al-Din, on a talk show broadcasted by the state-run Radio Omdurman on Friday, said that the current media campaign about the apostate woman is aimed at distorting the image of Sudan and its judiciary.
A Sudanese official echoed same position yesterday in what appears to be a bid to distance the government from it and contain international outcry over the ruling stressing it could be appealed in a higher court.
"Sudan is committed to all human rights and freedom of faith granted in Sudan by the constitution and law," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abu-Bakr Al-Sideeg told Reuters. He added that his ministry trusted the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
On Thursday, a Khartoum court sentenced 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim to death by hanging for apostasy after she refused to recant her faith and revert to Islam.
The court convicted Ibrahim, who is in custody with her 20-month-old son and eight months pregnant with her second child, of the charges on May 11th and gave her three days to return to Islam.
The judge in her trial also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery as under Sudan’s Islamic Shar’ia law her marriage to a non-Muslim is considered invalid and therefore an adulterous relationship.
Judge Abbas Mohamed Al-Khalifa addressed Ibrahim with her Muslim father family name saying “We gave you three days to return to Islam but you insisted not to do so therefore I sentence you to death by hanging”.
Ibrahim, for her part, didn’t show any reaction to the judge’s ruling.
During the court session she was asked to listen to a Muslim cleric in order to convince her to return to Islam but she replied quietly to the judge, saying “I am Christian not apostate”.
The speaker said there were many false information published by various media outlets on Ibrahim’s case, adding the aim was to distort the image of Sudan and judiciary.
He noted the court’s ruling is preliminary and would go through the various stages of the judicial process until it reaches the constitutional court.
Izz Al-Din said the woman is not a physician as has ben reported in international media, saying she graduated in medical laboratory studies from the University of Sudan.
He also said that Ibrahim was raised as a Muslim not Christian as she claims, underscoring her parents are Muslims and she belongs to a famous neighbourhood and tribe.
The speaker further affirmed that charges were filed against Ibrahim by her Muslim brother, asserting the case was not driven by political motivations.
“There is no single reason which suggests that the case is a political one, including the various parties and their orientations”, he added
Sudan Tribune understands that Ibrahim’s husband, Dr Daniel Wani, is a South Sudanese-born US citizen.
Amnesty International said Ibrahim was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013 after a family member reported her to authorities for committing adultery. The charge of apostasy was later added when Ibrahim, who says she was raised an Orthodox Christian, told the court that she was not a Muslim.
Human rights groups have condemned the ruling, saying it was in breach of international law, while Amnesty described the sentence as “truly abhorrent”.
It issued a statement saying apostasy and adultery should not be considered criminal acts and calling for Ibrahim’s immediate release.
Her lawyers say they plan to lodge an appeal to a higher court in an attempt to have her sentence overturned.
There have been no known executions for apostasy since the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Code was enacted, although many have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned after recanting their faith.