Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman awaiting the death penalty for refusing to convert to Islam, has given birth to a baby girl. Ibrahim is married to a U.S. citizen. Ibrahim (27) was delivered of the baby girl during the early hours of May 27, according to her lawyers, in the hospital wing of the prison where she is confined. Her 20-month-old son Martin has been with her inside the cell since she was first charged in February 2014 for refusing to recant her Christian faith. Since her father was a Muslim, Sudanese law calls for the death penalty in cases where Muslims leave Islam.
Wheelchair-bound husband Daniel Wani said last week that she was being kept shackled by the ankles in her cell. Sudanese officials will not allow Wani to take custody of his one-year-old son because, by law, a Christian man cannot raise a Muslim child.
Ibrahim was sentenced to death on May 15 by a court in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. By court order, the carrying out of the death sentence was to be delayed until two years following the birth of her child in order to nurse her.
In court, Ibrahim denied charges of apostasy and adultery - the court did not recognize her 2011 marriage to Wani because she said her Muslim father abandoned the family, and she was raised a Christian.
Amnesty International is circulating a petition on Ibrahim's behalf that has been signed by 640,000 people so far – but the rights group has been barred from Sudan since 2005. “Apostasy and adultery should not even be crimes,” said Manar Idriss of AI. “It’s a personal choice who to marry and what to believe.” Idriss added, “The human rights situation has been deteriorating for the past few years. It’s an extremely repressive regime, with opposition activists tortured, and the targeting of anyone who dares to defy the regime.”
On May 22, her lawyers filed an appeal at the Appeal Court of Bahri and Sharq Al Nil. If their appeal is unsuccessful, they plan to explore further avenues, and take the case to Sudan’s Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.
Christians in Sudan, including the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, have condemned the death sentence handed down to Ibrahim. In a joint statement, the Sudanese churches said the charges against Ibrahim are false. They appealed to the Sudanese government to free her from prison, according to the Social Communications department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.