Hopes For Sudanese Christian Woman's Quick Release Dashed

Sudan's foreign minister is denying reports that Meriam Ibrahim might soon be cleared of her death sentence for apostasy.
Posted at 10:34 PM, Jun 01, 2014

The case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death after refusing to renounce her Christian faith, sparked international outrage. Western nations and human rights groups have all condemned the Sudanese government for violating Ibrahim's right to religious freedom and called for her immediate release. (Via Amnesty International, U.S. Department of State, Twitter / @David_Cameron)

The international pressure finally prompted an under-secretary at Sudan's foreign ministry to tell the BBC Saturday, "Meriam Ibrahim will be released through a judicial process in a few days time." 

That statement generated more than a few optimistic headlines saying Ibrahim's sentence would be annulled. (Via Daily Mail, The Independent)

But come Sunday, the country's foreign ministry appeared to backtrack on those claims, saying the agency couldn't free Ibrahim after all.

The Telegraph quotes a spokesman as saying Sudan's foreign ministry doesn't have the authority to interfere with Ibrahim's case, and only the appeals court has the power to annul her sentence. The official also added, "[I am] not aware that any release is imminent."

And Ibrahim's husband later told the BBC he hadn't been contacted by any officials about his wife's release.

Ibrahim's lawyer told Al Jazeera the story about her impending release might have just been a smokescreen to alleviate some of the international pressure on the government.

"This statement is just a political statement. ... The judiciary of Sudan is the body that has to determine Meriam's situation."

Ibrahim, who was pregnant when she was imprisoned, recently gave birth in prison to a baby girl. The judge who sentenced Ibrahim postponed her execution date to two years after the child's birth.