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Sudan rights body questions mental capacity of woman accused of apostasy

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June 2, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has questioned the mental status of a Christian woman accused of apostasy amid reports that a presidential decree to pardon her will be issued during the week.

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Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag’s wedding photo (BBC)

The head of the woman committee at the NCHR, Meriam Takas, revealed that they formed a committee to follow up on the case, noting that the woman’s name was neither found on the records of the University of Sudan nor Sudan’s examinations commission.

On May 15, 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.

Takas said she met with Ibrahim several times in prison, asserting that the case should have been dismissed in the early stages due to suspicions relating to her family lineage and mental capacity.

She also pointed to the weakness of Ibrahim’s defense team, adding that investigation procedures have not been properly conducted.

Takas said the case has three dimensions including the humanitarian one because Ibrahim is a breast-feeding mother of two children, international pressure and the intellectual dimension regarding the issue of apostasy in Islam.

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.

“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.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton joined the chorus of world officials condemning the sentence.

"Meriam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence is abhorrent," Clinton wrote on Twitter. "Sudan should stop threatening religious freedom and fundamental human rights".

The US disclosed that is closely working to convince Khartoum to release Ibrahim.

“Through the US embassy in Khartoum, the White House and the state department, we have communicated our strong concern at high levels of the Sudanese government about this case,” State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson wrote in an email to FoxNews.com.

“We have heard from many, many Americans that they are deeply alarmed by [Ibrahim’s] plight. We have conveyed these views to the Government of Sudan” Thompson said.

Last Saturday, Sudan’s foreign ministry undersecretary, Abdallah Alazrag, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the woman will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice.

But the Sudanese foreign ministry on Sunday refuted Alazrag’s statements, saying he did not make any statement regarding release of Ibrahim during the coming period.

Al-Araby al-Gadeed newspaper on Monday quoted sources within the presidential palace in Khartoum as saying that a presidential decree to pardon Ibrahim will be issued during this week according to powers granted to the president in the criminal code.

Identical sources also affirmed that Ibrahim will immediately be transferred along with her husband and children to live in Washington.

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

(ST)

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