24th May, 2014

World Council of Churches head, Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit has urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to prevent the "unjust and unconscionable" sentence of 100 lashes and execution handed down to a 27-year-old Sudanese woman accused of adultery and apostasy.

In a letter to the Sudanese president, Rev Dr Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, said he was "shocked and dismayed" to learn of the sentence handed down to pregnant mother Mariam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag on 15th May who, though brought up as a Christian from childhood, was accused of converting from Islam to Christianity and of having committed adultery by marrying a Christian man.

Noting that the sentence runs counter to the "letter and the spirit" of the Sudanese Constitution, Rev Dr Tveit said the ruling violated the fundamental principle of freedom of religion contained in both the constitution and in international human rights law.

"I am asking you to use your presidential powers to prevent the implementation of this unjust and unconscionable sentence," he wrote.

His call was echoed by Sudan's Episcopal Archbishop-Elect and Bishop of Khartoum, Ezekial Kondo, who said the Episcopal Church of Sudan condemned the decision and requested the Ministry of Justice review her case and release her immediately.

"She is free to believe in religion of her choice," he said in a statement issued on 21st May, calling the verdict a violation of human and religious rights.

~ www.oikoumene.org

- DAVID ADAMS