Amnesty deplores pregnant mum’s death sentence
THE decision of a Sudanese court to sentence a heavily pregnant Sudanese Christian woman to death by hanging for “apostasy” and flogging for “adultery” was described today as “truly abhorrent” by Amnesty International.
In a press release AI said that Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag is eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son. Her death sentence was handed down after she refused to renounce her religion.
Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, said:
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.
According to the BBC the presiding judge told the woman:
We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death.
Local media report the sentence would not be carried out for two years after she has given birth.
Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law. It rules that apostasy – the abandonment of one’s religious faith – is a crime.
Western embassies and rights groups had urged Sudan to respect the right of the pregnant woman to choose her religion.
The judge also sentenced the woman to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery – because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law.
This punishment will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes. Then she calmly told the judge:
I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.
She was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.
There is a long-running debate in Islam over whether apostasy is a crime.
Some liberal scholars hold the view that it is not – and back up their argument by citing the Koranic verse which states:
There shall be no compulsion in religion.
Others – such as the Indian “expert” on Islam, Zakir Naik – say apostasy is tantamount to treason.
These zealots refer to what the “prophet” Mohammed Prophet said:
It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three [instances]: A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community.
The latter is the dominant view in conservative Muslim states such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the cause of much religious tension.
In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
The woman was originally sentenced to death on Sunday but given until Thursday to return to Islam.
AFP reports that there were small groups of protesters outside the court – both her supporters and those who back the punishment.
The BBC’s Osman Mohamed, in Khartoum, says death sentences are rarely carried out in Sudan.
One of her lawyers told AFP they would appeal to a higher court to get the sentence overturned.
On Tuesday, the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” about the case and urging Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, AFP says.
The woman was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim, Amnesty said. The group called for her immediate release.