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Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for Apostasy to Be Released

The decision to release Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag comes after intense international pressure over the sentencing.

by Olivia Becker
Jun 2 2014, 3:50pm

Photo via Petr Adam Dohnálek

The Sudanese women sentenced to death for the crime of renouncing Islam and converting to Christianity will be released, according to Sudanese officials. The decision to release Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag comes after Sudan received intense international pressure following the trial and sentencing.

Ishag, 27, was born to a Muslim father and Christian mother. She was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging in May while she was pregnant. She gave birth in custody on May 28.

Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at Sudan’s foreign ministry, told the BBC that Sudan guarantees religious freedom and was committed to protecting Ishag.

"I expect her to be released soon," Alzareg added.

Ishag was brought up Orthodox Christian, but because her father’s faith is Islam, she was charged with apostasy after she married a Christian American man. Religious conversion is illegal under Sudanese law — which is a combination of Islamic religious law and British common law. A Sudanese court deemed her marriage adulterous, and therefore void. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes.

During her trial, Ishag maintained that she is Christian and never committed apostasy. If the death sentence had been carried through, it would be the first apostasy-related sentence in Sudan since Islamic law came to the country in the early 1980s under President Omar al-Bashir’s reign.

The arrest received widespread international condemnation from human rights organizations, and countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.

The US State Department condemned the trial and arrest of Ishag in a statement in May, calling on Sudan to “respect the right to freedom of religion.”

“Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law,” Amnesty International spokeswoman Manar Idriss said in a statement about the sentencing.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron called the sentencing “barbaric.”

Ishag’s lawyer told Reuters he has yet to be notified about the release, but hopes that she will be released soon.

Additional reporting by Kayla Ruble

Conflict in South Sudan — Watch the VICE News documentary.

Photo via Wikimedia

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928