Sudan on Sunday retracted claims by a foreign ministry spokesman that a Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for allegedly abandoning the Muslim faith would shortly be released, saying the official’s remarks had been taken “out of context”.
Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised solely by her Christian mother, was convicted on May 11 of apostasy for marrying a Christian and sentenced to death a few days later.
Abdullah al-Azraq, a foreign ministry under-secretary, told several media outlets on Saturday that Ibrahim “will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice”.
But on Sunday the foreign ministry said the release of the 27-year-old, who gave birth to a baby girl in prison on Tuesday, was out of the government’s hands and instead depended on whether a court accepted an appeal request made by her defence team.
A ministry statement said Azraq actually told media on Saturday “that the defence team of the concerned citizen has appealed the verdict … and if the appeals court rules in her favour, she will be released.”
Azraq said “the government does not interfere in the work of the judiciary because it is an independent body,” the ministry added.
“Some media took what the undersecretary said out of context, changing the meaning of what he said.”
After Azraq’s comment on Saturday, Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, told AFP he did not believe she would be freed.
“No one has contacted me and I don’t think it will happen. We have submitted an appeal but they have not looked at it yet, so how is it that they will release her?” he said.
Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohannad Mustapha had expressed doubts she would be released or that charges against her would be dropped.
“The only party who can do that is the appeals court but I am not sure that they have the full case file,” he said on Saturday.
Earlier this week, Mustapha said a hearing that was due to take place on Wednesday was postponed because the file was incomplete.
According to Wani, Ibrahim identifies as a Christian and was never Muslim, and therefore could not have abandoned the faith.
Under sharia law, which has been in force in Sudan since 1983, conversions are punishable by death.
The court gave her three days to “recant” her faith and when she refused, Ibrahim was handed the death penalty
It also ordered her Christian marriage to be annulled and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery.
Under Sudan’s interpretation of sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, and any such relationship is regarded as adulterous.
Her case sparked international condemnation, with British Prime Minister David Cameron denouncing the “barbaric” sentence.
Wani, a US citizen, visited Ibrahim and the baby on Thursday after being denied access earlier in the week and said that both were in good health.
(Geo Urdu with AFP)