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Sudan refutes reports that woman in apostasy case will be granted pardon


June 1, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign ministry refuted a statement attributed to its undersecretary Abdallah Alazrag in which he announced that the government will seek to free a woman sentenced to death for apostasy within the next few days.

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Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag’s wedding photo (BBC)

"The lady will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice," Alazrag told Agence France Presse (AFP) yesterday.

“She will definitely not be executed. I am sure about this,” he told The Sunday Times in separate remarks.

The foreign ministry said in statement on Sunday that Alazrag did not make any statement regarding release of the Sudanese woman accused of apostasy during the coming period.

According to the statement, Alazrag said in an interview with BBC that the woman’s defense team had appealed the verdict of the preliminary court and if the court of appeal rules in her favor, she will be released.

It added that Alazrag pointed out that the woman’s case is in the court and the government does not intervene in the judiciary because the latter is an independent power.

"Some media outlets took part of the undersecretary’s answer and put it out of context, and thus changed its meaning and what it inferred".

The statement further underscored the government’s full commitment to the independence of the judiciary, saying the former has complete trust in professionalism and impartiality of the Sudanese judiciary.

On 15 May, 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 of the charges on May 11th and gave her three days to return to Islam.

The judge 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.

Ibrahim, who was raised in Eastern Sudan’s Gedaref state, was born to an Ethiopian Christian mother and a Sudanese Muslim father, who was largely absent from her childhood. She was arrested in 2013 after a relative reported her to authorities for adultery, with an additional charge of apostasy, brought against her in February after she asserted that she was not a Muslim.

The sentence has sparked international condemnation, with United States senators urging secretary John Kerry to personally intervene on Ibrahim’s behalf and offer her political asylum.

The United Nations human rights experts described the conviction as “outrageous”, saying the right to marry and start a family was a fundamental human right.

On Sunday, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron told The Times that he was “absolutely appalled” when he learnt of the death sentence against Ibrahim and called for lifting the "barbaric" verdict.

“The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today’s world,” he said.

“Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children. The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act," Cameron pledged.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour party, described her conviction as “utterly appalling” and “an abhorrent abuse of her human rights”. He said that his party had pressed for Cameron message to be sent to the Sudanese government

Ibrahim, who is in custody with her 20-month-old son, gave birth last week to a baby girl in prison.


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