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Sudan frees Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy

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June 23, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A court of appeal in Khartoum cancelled a death sentence issued last month against Meriam Ibrahim for apostasy, the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported on Monday.

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An image taken from an undated video provided on 5 June 2014 by Al Fajer, a Sudanese NGO, shows Meriam Ibrahim breastfeeding her newborn baby girl that she gave birth to in jail in May (Photo: AP/Al Fajer)

“The Court of Appeal in Khartoum North overturned a judgment of the trial court of Haj Youssef and issued a decision to release the prisoner Abrar Hadi Mohammed Abdullah (alias Meriam Ibrahim), after the pleadings submitted by her defence,” SUNA said.

Her lawyer later said that authorities released her from jail.

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy on May 15th and sentenced her to death by hanging after refusing to revert to Islam. The court also sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery as her marriage to a Christian man is considered invalid under Sudan’s Islamic Shar’ia law.

Ibrahim, who was reportedly born to a largely absent Sudanese Muslim father, was raised according to her Ethiopian mother’s Christian faith.

She has been imprisoned with her 20-month-old son, Martin, since her arrest in December of last year and gave birth to a baby girl in prison on 27 May.

The head of the women’s committee at Sudan’s National Commission for Human Rights (SNCHR), Meriam Takas, told Sudan Tribune following the court’s decision that the Omdurman Women’s Prison authority received a judicial order to release Ibrahim if she was not convicted in other crimes, stressing that the order referred both the death and flogging sentences.

Ibrahim’s sentence drew widespread international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it "abhorrent." The US state department said it was "deeply disturbed" by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.

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.

However, earlier this month Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Bonn that handling the case is governed by a legal appeal process to achieve justice to the satisfaction of all parties, stressing that the government does not interfere in judicial decisions.

Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that the court’s decision came within the framework of the independence of judiciary and in fulfillment of the provisions of the law, constitution, and the bill of fundamental rights.

The statement pointed that Sudan faced unprecedented pressure campaign from governments, organisations, international figures, and the media, saying this campaign sought to push the government to interrupt the judicial process and ignore independence of the judiciary and the principle of the separation of powers.

It underscored that the government refused to intervene in the judicial process, noting they continued to remind the international community of the necessity to respect the judiciary and its rulings.

The foreign ministry considered the court decision an opportunity to remind the international community of the continued injustices against 35 million Sudanese people due to unilateral sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States government since 1997.

It said those sanctions adversely impact importation of live-saving drugs, production inputs, and the development efforts in the country as a fundamental human right, adding that the sanctions also allows confiscation of assets belonging to Sudanese companies and individuals unlawfully which represents a gross violation for human rights and international law.

The statement called on the same governments, organisations, and individuals who expressed concern and demanded release of Ibrahim to express solidarity with the Sudanese people against the unjust unilateral sanctions.

Amnesty international in a statement on Monday described the court’s decision to release Ibrahim as “a step towards undoing the horrific injustice visited on her”.

“Today’s ruling is a small step to redressing the injustice done to Meriam,” said Sarah Jackson, deputy director at Amnesty International.

“However, she should never have been prosecuted. Meriam was sentenced to death when eight months pregnant for something which should not be a crime. Furthermore, her abhorrent treatment, including being shackled, violated international human rights law against ill-treatment.”

The rights group also said it will continue to urge the Sudanese authorities to repeal provisions that criminalise acts of apostasy and adultery so that nobody else in Sudan has to endure the same ordeal as Ibrahim.

The US state department said today it welcomes the release of Ibrahim and called on Sudan to "repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 interim constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

"These actions would help demonstrate to the Sudanese people that their government intends to respect their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. And as you know, this is a case we raised quite frequently with the government there and welcome today’s news," deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters.

The Popular Congress Party (PCP), led by Islamist figure Hassan Al-Turabi, previously described the death penalty against Ibrahim as "a scandal, extremism, and intellectual backwardness”, saying there is no punishment for apostasy in Islam.

Kamal Omar, PCP’s political secretary said at a press conference last week that freedom of belief is an asset of Islam, noting the death sentence against Ibrahim is a violation of the basic principles of Islam.

He emphasised that PCP leader and members are against the conviction of Ibrahim, describing the judge who issued the apostasy sentence as “ignorant”.

(ST)

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  • 24 June 06:02, by Akol Liai Mager

    Although Free, Mariam’s life is at a significant danger ever as she could be executed by her blood’s thirsty half-brothers and uncles. Risks for her life are now greater than she was in prison, so lives’ activists should exert maximum efforts to get her out of Khartoum otherwise the Terrorist government will not protect her from human butchers who only enjoy killing or blogging innocent women.

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    • 24 June 07:33, by Jalaby

      You guys only see one woman being claimed embraced Christianity in Khartoum and you close your eyes against a crime against humanity that took place in CAR where extremists Christians slayed innocent Muslims in street of Bangui and many other cities just like sheep and cows in front of the whole world eyes! Go to youtube.com and see the horrific video, Shame on you!!

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      • 24 June 07:54, by hamil

        No one dares with Christianity the most popular religion in the world with the largest followers. We prayed for Mariam and God heard our prayers and sent His Son Jesus to set her free Glory be to God this is a victory against evil

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      • 24 June 09:24, by South South

        Jalaby,

        In your face!!! Mariam is out free and she didn’t change her Christianity as fake Arab Muslims want. CAR issue, is SELEKA who started first killing many innocent Christians. What do you think will happen when people in table cloths started killing others? The same thing will happen soon in Nigeria if those Boko Haram continue killing Christians.

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      • 24 June 09:52, by Jalaby

        Christians extremists and mobs in CAR should stop slaying Muslims and burn their houses and cause them to flee their homes to neighboring countries, the total population of CAR is around 5 millions only and Christians among them are less than 1.5 millions so we can take sticks and rods only and beat them and send them out of CAR to Congo!!

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        • 24 June 10:00, by South South

          Jalaby,

          You can sing your lies somewhere, not here. Who is fleeing CAR now? Who is running to Chad right now? Why do they run if they are majority? How come 3.5 million people is running away from 1.5 million Christians in CAR? Lies, lies and lies are the only things fake Arabs of Sudan have. CAR is a Christian country and if you do not like it go to the hell.

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          • 24 June 12:29, by Jalaby

            South South,
            I usually don’t waste my time with you but this time I’ll waste few of it!
            Where did I say 3.5 millions are Muslims in CAR?
            In CAR you’ve:indigenous beliefs, Protestant,Roman Catholic, and Muslims!
            So both Christians: Protestant & Roman Catholic do not form the majority in CAR!

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            • 24 June 12:37, by Jalaby

              BTW, do you know if you change your believe in Christianity e.g. from Roman Catholic to Protestant then Roman Catholic will consider you as apostasy? do you know the Bible is different between them, believe is different, prayer is different, religious rituals are different too? basically completely new religion!

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              • 24 June 12:48, by Jalaby

                do you know during the middle ages the catholic church used to burn people alive accusing them of apostasy because they moved from Roman Catholic to Protestant?
                Do you know Islam spread in Africa peacefully without any outer invasion while Christianity spread by force when the white man invaded Africa holding a gun in his right hand and a Bible in his left hand?

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                • 24 June 14:14, by South South

                  Jalaby,

                  Mariam is out and that is the focus here. It is me who always turn blind eyes to your comments because most of the time they do not help. Talking about Islam as a religious of peace, you make laugh harder. All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim so far.

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                • 24 June 14:16, by Jalaby

                  This images show how Christians extremists and mobs in CAR brutally burning and killing Muslims civilians!

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  • 24 June 08:18, by Modi Lo Laja

    This’ good news to Jebel Lado people in particular, Bari and South Sudan in general for this great event of Meriem who had been married to Daniel Wani (Jube Lo Bicensio).

    We as Jebel Lado people would thanks all Humanitarian agencies, Organizations, Civil Societies, All Government’s countries and South Sudan Government for their stands for Meriem’s case.

    Long live Jebel Lado people
    Long live S

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  • 24 June 09:05, by Kenyan the cushite

    interesting. so those christians SELEKA killed dont count at all? why did seleka overthow the goverment and start killing? if they didnt attack christins CAR would have been peaceful. what about the millions bashir is killing now? are their lives worthless? 73 organisations recently urged sudan to stop the killing, half were muslim if the whole world says its happening trust me. its happening.

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    • 24 June 09:19, by Adodi Jotuwa

      It’s a big shame to you Jalaby and NCP-led government. How can you apply Sharia law in a multi-cultural country like Sudan? It’s an unprecedented blow to Sudan. Sudanese Muslims have been, not only having S.X with Christian women, but marrying them unconditionally particularly in South Sudan since their entry into the Land of the Black/Sudan. Christian have been given red-line, first to convert...

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      • 24 June 09:29, by Adodi Jotuwa

        Why does Sudan encourage only one-sided freedom of religion to marry non-Muslim women but not vice versa? In South Sudan Muslim men marry Christian women, bear children with them but take only boys to Khartoum/North and leave the daughters claiming that they are not worthy. Only Mohammed, Ali, or Hassan are taken to Khartoum but Sadia, or Kassara are left with their mothers in the South.

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        • 24 June 09:38, by Adodi Jotuwa

          All daughters are left to be raised by their Christian mothers as is the case with this freed woman. I have been telling you/readers that Sharia law will never work in Sudan. Its enforced application will disintegrate Sudan into more countries. That is why in the Muslim world they have Muslims and Muslim Brotherhood. The two have different ideological differences. Sudan wants to copy and paste dif

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          • 24 June 09:47, by Adodi Jotuwa

            Sudan or NCP simply wants to copy and paste that ideological differences to hang onto power. Competitive interpretation of Quran to rule the Land of the Black/Sudan is the order of the day. Jalaby is one of the lost sheep in the Biblical story. They travel to South Sudan, Europe or USA to get drunk and have fun with whoever woman comes across and return to Sudan to apply/live under Sharia law.

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  • 24 June 11:35, by hamil

    Mariam’s release is a victory implying that faith will work wonders i am sure she prayed tirelessly and God granted her wish. I am just confused why the Muslims think converting to Christianity is a crime? What if a christian converts to Islam do we call it a crime or insanity? Freedom to exercise faith is God’s call some muslims just assume certain things they think they are gods

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    • 24 June 13:20, by australian

      It is Islamic law. Muslim men can marry Christian women but not vice versa. South Sudanese should NOT let their daughters marry Muslim men.

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  • 24 June 14:08, by magic

    Thanks to God for freeing the woman from the killers. Why do Muslims ignore basic human right values? We thanked the Sudanese officials who intervened on her release and the whole christian community world wide who were voicing against her killing. A question for Muslims: why do you kill a person who doesn’t want the religion? Why dont the so called Allah keep his religion by himself not by killin

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