News / Africa

Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Hang for Refusing to Renounce Christianity

Christian worshippers pray during Christmas mass at a Church in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec. 25, 2013.
Christian worshippers pray during Christmas mass at a Church in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec. 25, 2013.
A court in Sudan has sentenced a pregnant woman to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, who is already the mother to a 20-month-old son, was convicted of apostasy on Monday and given three days to abandon her faith.

Her lawyer, Mohamed Abdel Nabi, said the judge hearing the case asked her, "Where do you stand on being an apostate?"

"She answered, 'I’m not an apostate, your honor; because I was never a Muslim. I grew up a Christian.’ Then the judge announced, ‘you are sentenced to death by hanging,'" Nabi told South Sudan in Focus.

Mariam's husband, who is from South Sudan and holds a U.S. passport, confirmed that his wife was raised a Christian.

"She is from Darfur in western Sudan," Daniel Wani said.

"Her mother is from Ethiopia and she grew up with her mother. That's why she is a Christian, since she was young, you know,” he said.

Wani said he was prevented by the authorities from attending his wife’s appeal hearing but said he will continue to fight to save her life.

Death sentence not final

Sudan’s information minister, Ahmed Bilal, said that the the death sentence against Mariam was not final. 

Even Sudan's Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the country, was opposed to the harsh sentence against the young woman, Bilal said.

According to Bilal, Grand Mufti Isam Ahmed Elbashir said Mariam should have been given more time to decide whether or not she wanted to convert to Islam.

The U.S. State Department said it was  "deeply disturbed" by the sentence of death by hanging imposed on Mariam but understood that the sentence was open to appeal.

"We continue to call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, a right which is enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution as well as international human rights law," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statment.

Several embassies in Khartoum have also voiced concern over the harsh sentence against the young woman, who has also been sentenced to be flogged for adultery.

The Sudanese authorities insist that Mariam is Muslim, because her father is Muslim. Sudanese law prohibits marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, and Mariam's husband is Christian.

Amnesty International called the ruling "abhorrent" and a flagrant breach of international human rights law.  The rights group called for Mariam's immediate and unconditional release.

Nabeel Biajo contributed to this report.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Freddie H from: Amsterdam, Netherlands
May 15, 2014 6:32 PM
Reports like this one just fuel my feelings of hopelessness concerning the fate of Africa. I also think of the harassment and persecution of gays in many African countries, the unimaginable poverty, the extremely bad health care situation, lack of proper educational facilities and the religious fanaticism and you can only cry your eyes out. What a totally doomed and damned continent, the most wretched part of our planet, the playground of the most horrifying dictators on earth as well. I keep asking myself, why this should be the case. Who's going to answer???

by: joshua from: falls church,virginia
May 15, 2014 4:43 PM
Its time for US to take stand on Sudan who runs this kind of mullah court which is supported by Saudi Arabia who does not have tolerance on other religion

by: Sunday Ogunmadewa from: Lagos, Nigeria
May 15, 2014 4:41 PM
As long as Africans and their leaders continue to use religion as a political weapon to victimise the masses , the continent cannot know peace.

by: Sunday Ogunmadewa from: Lagos, Nigeria
May 15, 2014 4:29 PM
For how long will African leaders use religion
Comments page of 2

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