2nd June, 2014

DAVID ADAMS (with BosNewsLife)

A Sudanese mother sentenced to be executed for the crime of apostasy will not be freed according to reports which quote a Sudanese Foreign Ministry official as saying earlier comments that she would be released soon had been taken out of context.

Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, told the BBC on Saturday that 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth to a baby girl, Maya, while in prison last Tuesday, would be released in the next few days. But reports today say the foreign ministry now says those quotes were taken out of context and her release now depended on whether the court accepted the defence team's appeal request.

The Guardian reported her husband, Daniel Wani, saying on the weekend that he didn't think she would be released. "We have submitted an appeal but they have not looked at it yet, so how is it that they will release her."

Earlier, several European Union countries, including Britain, the Netherlands and Czech Republic, were among those condemning the "barbaric" punishment of Ibrahim.

Raised a Christian by her mother, Ibrahim had refused to become Muslim. However, a court ruled earlier this month that she is Muslim because that was her father's religion.

"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam," Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman on Thursday, 15th May, addressing her by her father's Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.

"I sentence you to be hanged to death." Khalifa also sentenced Ishag, still pregnant at that time, to 100 lashes for "adultery" while her Christian marriage was annulled.

Sudans President Omar al-Bashir under international pressure to tackle perceived human rights violations.

Sex outside a "lawful relationship" is regarded as adultery under Sudanese Islamic law, which was introduced in 1983.

Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with Ishag in the caged dock for about 30 minutes, trial observers said.

She was heard calmly telling the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

Ahmed Bilal Osman, Sudan's information minister, defended the ruling. "It's not only Sudan.

In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion."

He spoke before the release was announced, a decision that was expected to prompt protests.

Earlier this month Islamists already rallied in favor of executing the woman for "apostasy", while dozens of her supporters were seen demonstrating for her release near the court.

"This is a decision of the law. Why are you gathered here?" one Islamist demonstrators was herd saying, prompting an activist to counter: "Why do you want to execute Mariam? Why don't you bring corruptors to the court?"

Yet experts in Islamic law called the ruling outrageous.

"The punishment has little to do with religion and serves as a political distraction," Mohamed Ghilan, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, told Al Jazeera television.

"This is a ploy by the Sudanese regime to appear as 'defenders of Islam' to mitigate their corruption."

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