The White House and State Department came out against the death sentence handed down to an eight-months pregnant woman in Sudan for refusing to renounce Christianity.
“We are deeply disturbed over the sentencing today of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for apostasy. We are also deeply concerned by the flogging sentence for adultery. We understand that the court sentence can be appealed,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
“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,” she added. “We call on the Sudanese legal authorities to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people.”
According to the Sudan Tribune, a Khartoum court sentenced 27-year-old Ibrahim at the beginning of the month to death by hanging and 100 lashes after convicting her on charges of apostasy and adultery.
“Under Sudan’s Islamic Shari’a law, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man, thus any such marriage is considered adulterous. The court later added the charge of apostasy when Ibrahim, who was raised an Orthodox Christian, asserted that she was not a Muslim,” the Tribune said, adding that she “was born in Gedarif state, and raised solely by her Christian Ethiopian Orthodox mother as her Muslim Sudanese father was entirely absent from her upbringing.”
In 2012, she married Dr. Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese-born U.S. citizen in Khartoum; they currently have a 20-month-old son.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement, “We strongly condemn this sentence and urge the Government of Sudan to meet its obligations under international human rights law.”
“We call on the Government of Sudan to respect Ms. Ishag’s right to freedom of religion, a universal human right enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” she said.
“Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.”
Amnesty International noted there have been no known executions for apostasy since the Sudanese Criminal Code was enacted 1991, but some of the cases were also overturned after the accused recanted their faith.
“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent. Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law,” said Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher.
“Amnesty International believes that Meriam is a prisoner of conscience, convicted solely because of her religious beliefs and identity, and must be released immediately and unconditionally. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which includes the freedom to hold beliefs, is far-reaching and profound; it encompasses freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment to religion or belief.”