WASHINGTON— The United States welcomed the release from a Sudanese jail of a Christian woman sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy after refusing to revert to Islam under Sudan’s Sharia Law. A U.S. lawmaker has indicated Meriam Ibrahim, married to a Sudanese-American, could soon be on her way to the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the decision by the Sudanese Court of Appeals to order the 27-year old mother of two released from prison, where she also faced a sentence of 100 lashes for adultery. Kerry said her case has rightly drawn the attention of the world and has been of deep concern to the U.S. government, citizens and lawmakers.
Kerry said nothing can bring the lost moments back to a mother and her children, but “today we celebrate the reunification of this family.” Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, called on Sudan to change its laws.
"We also, at this point, continue to urge 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," said Harf.
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the House Africa Committee, applauded the release, saying Ibrahim’s willingness to face martyrdom rather than recant is "extraordinarily courageous and inspiring."
Smith postponed a congressional hearing on the case set for Tuesday, calling her release a "huge first step." The second, he said, is getting Ibrahim and her family on a plane to the United States.
Smith said he expects the U.S. government to grant her and her children humanitarian parole to join her wheelchair-bound husband, Daniel Wani, who is already a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy May 15. She was born to a largely-absent Muslim father and raised by her Ethiopian-born Christian mother. She has been imprisoned with her 20-month old son, Martin, since her arrest in December. She gave birth to a baby girl while incarcerated.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said the court decision came within the framework of the independence of the judiciary and in fulfillment of the provisions of the law, constitution and the bill of fundamental rights. It said the government came under "unprecedented pressure" from other governments, organizations, international figures and the media. It also called for a review of U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 that it says cause "continued injustices against 35-million Sudanese people."
The UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide organization says Ibrahim, her family and defense attorneys face death threats from family members and extremists. CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas called on Sudanese authorities to ensure her safety and that of her lawyers.