Sudanese authorities deny Meriam Ibrahim's release

amnesty.ca

Despite reports that Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim will be freed as early as this week, Sudanese government authorities have denied this is certain.

Ibrahim was sentenced on May 15 to 100 lashes and death by hanging as a result of her marriage to a Christian man; under Sharia law in Sudan she is considered a Muslim and her marriage is invalid – she is accused, therefore, of adultery.

She has thus far refused to renounce her Christian faith however, and gave birth to a baby girl, Maya, in the Omdurman Federal Women's Prison in North Khartoum on May 27.

Her plight has gained international attention, with calls for Sudan to repeal her sentence as a matter of human rights.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged Sudanese authorities "to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her [Ibrahim] and her children.

"Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right," he added.

Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have each also lambasted Ibrahim's treatment as "abhorrent", though President Obama is yet to give an official statement on the issue.

Amnesty International, which campaigns for global human rights, has received over 230,000 signatures on its petition asking Sudan to release the prisoner, and another petition on change.org has now reached almost 750,000 signatures.

Reports that Ibrahim would be granted freedom in the next few days were thus met with enthusiasm, after foreign ministry under-secretary in Sudan Abdullah Alazreg was quoted on Saturday as saying she would be "freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice".

Ibrahim's lawyers immediately expressed their reservations about the validity of this claim, however.

"It's a statement to silence the international media; this is what the government does. We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison" Elshareef Ali Mohammed said, according to The Guardian.

"If they were to release her, the announcement would come from the appeal court, not from the ministry of foreign affairs. But at least it shows our campaign to free Meriam is rattling them. We must keep up the pressure."

A second statement has now been released by the foreign ministry in Sudan which supports Mohammed's concerns; it underlines that Ibrahim's fate still relies on the outcome of her appeal.

"Some media took what the under-secretary said out of context, changing the meaning of what he said," the statement reads.

Contrary to reports, the ministry has noted that Alazreg actually said "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".

"No one has contacted me and I don't think it will happen," Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, is reported as saying of his wife's potential release.

"We have submitted an appeal but they have not looked at it yet, so how is it that they will release her?"

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