Condemned to hang, pregnant Sudanese doctor refuses to recant her faith


A pregnant Christian woman refused to recant her faith in a Sudanese court. The judge at then confirmed her sentence of 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, who is eight months pregnant, is currently in detention with her 20-month-old son.

Born of a Muslim father and an Orthodox Christian mother, Ibrahim married Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian with U.S. citizenship, in 2012.

Under Sudanese law Muslim women may only marry Muslim men. Since her father was a Muslim, the authorities regard Ibrahim a Muslim and do not recognize her marriage to a Christian.

"This is very disturbing," said Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum.

Adwok said he could not understand why the sentence was issued when the 2005 Interim National Constitution allowed freedom of religion throughout the country.

"She had openly declared her Christian faith," said Adwok. "I don't think it's right to deny her that freedom."

But the Sudanese minister for information, Ahmed Bilal Osman, told Agence France-Presse that Sudan is not unique in its law against apostasy.

"In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion," he said.

The Rev. Mark Akec Cien, a South Sudan church leader, said he wasn't surprised, either. Sudan is governed by Islamic law and has always persecuted Christians, he said.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British religious freedom advocacy group, has called for the annulment of the sentence and the release of Ibrahim, while Amnesty International said adultery and apostasy should not be considered crimes.

Amnesty International has condemned the sentences as 'appalling and abhorrent.'

Amnesty International's Sudan researcher Manar Idriss said that Sudan is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in which "everyone has the right to freedom of religion." This includes the "freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."

Idriss also said that Ibrahim's lawyers plans to appeal the conviction, but she is expected to remain in custody with her young child.

Christian Examiner staff added to this report.