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Sudan Retracts Statement to Free Meriam Ibrahim, Sudanese Christian Woman Sentenced to Death for Apostasy

( [email protected] ) Jun 02, 2014 05:36 PM EDT

Sudan Sentence Pregnant Christian Woman Meriam Ibrahim to Death by Hanging
Daniel Wani with his wife, Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim, who has been sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith (Photo: GABRIEL WANI)

A Sudanese official who stated that Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy, would be "set free" has now retracted the statement, according to the American Center for Law and Justice. The case has been closely watched in the past several days since Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl Wednesday while in prison. Meriam's husband told the Daily Telegraph that "they kept a chain on her legs" as she gave birth.

On Saturday, Abdullah Alazreg, a Sudanese foreign ministry under-secretary, told media that Ibrahim would be freed "in a few days' time," sparking a flood of media coverage and public excitement. However, according to The Guardian, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, Meriam's lawyer, has said, "Nothing has changed. This was a political statement made under pressure from an international campaign. We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison." The court will allow Meriam to nurse her newborn baby for two years before the sentence is carried out.

Meriam was sentenced to death on May 15 by a Sudanese court and was arrested on February 17. The charges that have held Meriam in prison cite that Meriam is legally considered a Muslim since her father was a Muslim. However, according to Voice of the Martyrs, a non-profit Christian advocacy organization following Meriam's case closely, Meriam tells a different story about her upbringing. According to her own account, she was raised by her Christian mother and her father left the family when Meriam was 6 years old. Meriam told the Haj Yousif court in Khartoum "I am a Christian. I did not convert from Islam." Meriam later moved to Khartoum with her mother, where she attended the Khartoum School of Medicine and met her current husband Daniel, a Christian. Meriam was charged with adultery when a person claiming to be her family member let authorities know Meriam had wed a Christian man. She was later charged with apostasy after refusing to recant her faith.

The Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in Washington D.C. recently released a statement on Meriam's case telling a different story, stating "The case remains a legal issue and not a religious or political one." Pertaining the charges related to her family heritage, the Embassy's statement notes "The claim that the mother is an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia is untrue. There was no Government agency behind the case; rather her immediate family had reported their daughter as missing, later and after she was found and claimed that she is a Christian, the family filed a case of apostasy against her."

The Be Heard Project, affiliated with the American Center for Law and Justice, "dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable God-given rights" is circulating a petition to free Meriam. Those interested in signing the petition can visit their site here. The petition currently has over 326,000 signatures. Social media outlets have been flooded with various calls to action, both from Christians and humanitarians, calling for Meriam's release.