Christian woman could face death for her faith in Sudan

File photo: A Sudanese woman holds a cross as she prays.

Story highlights

  • Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was convicted of apostasy and adultery
  • She considers herself Christian, but a court contends that she is Muslim
  • She could be sentenced to death and to flogging
  • Foreign embassies in Khartoum are urging the government to reverse course

A Christian woman in Sudan reportedly has until Thursday to either recant her faith or face a possible sentence of death.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was convicted by a Khartoum court this week of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, Amnesty International said Wednesday, a day before the expected ruling. The court considers her to be Muslim.

According to the rights group, she was also convicted of adultery because her marriage to a Christian man was considered void under Sharia law.

"The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered," Manar Idriss, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher, said in a statement.

"'Adultery' and 'apostasy' are acts which should not be considered crimes at all, let alone meet the international standard of 'most serious crimes' in relation to the death penalty. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law," the researcher said.

Ibrahim is eight months pregnant and currently in custody with her 20-month-old son, according to Amnesty International, which considers her a prisoner of conscience.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, another rights group, described Ibrahim's case as follows:

She was born to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left when she was 6 years old, and Ibrahim was raised by her mother as a Christian.

However, because her father was Muslim, she was considered by the courts to be the same, which would mean her marriage to a non-Muslim man is void.

In past cases involving pregnant or nursing women, the Sudanese government waited until the mother weaned her child before executing any sentence, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide spokeswoman Kiri Kankhwende.

After-hours attempts Wednesday to contact the Justice Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister in Sudan were unsuccessful.

Foreign embassies in Khartoum are urging the government there to reverse course.

"We call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan's own 2005 Interim Constitution," the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Netherlands said in a statement.

"We further urge Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam's case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people," it read.