A Queen’s University academic has called for the release of a Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence prompted the original criticism of Islam by Pastor James McConnell.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, delivered her second child on Monday at a women’s prison in Khartoum. She was convicted of apostasy and given the death sentence about two weeks ago. She is to be hanged when the child is two.
Yesterday QUB academic and broadcaster, Dr Leon Litvack, raised her plight on Radio Ulster’s Thought for the Day.
“Today our thoughts turn to 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who is a prisoner of conscience,” he said.
He added: “Two weeks ago this Sudanese woman, who [was] eight and a half months pregnant, was sentenced for two crimes.
“The first, which carries a punishment of flogging, was for ‘adultery’ – interpreted in this case as marrying a Christian (though Meriam herself was raised in the Orthodox faith).
“The second, which carries the death penalty, was for ‘apostasy’ – because she renounced Islam. Amnesty [International] has taken up Meriam’s case and has petitioned for her release because, in their view, she hasn’t committed any crime. Flogging, they say, constitutes torture, and capital punishment is the ultimate denial of human rights.”
Praising the work of Amnesty International on such matters, he remembered as a schoolboy agitating for the release of another prisoner of conscience – Nelson Mandela.
“We know of many causes requiring intervention: schoolgirls in Nigeria, torture and ill-treatment in the Ukraine and Egypt, and accountability for genocide in Guatemala,” he said.
“If we stand up for what we believe in, we can say, at the end of the day, that what we did made a difference to someone who didn’t have the freedom, voice, or opportunity to act for themselves.”
Ibrahim says her father was a Sudanese Muslim and her mother was Ethiopian Orthodox. Her father left when she was six, and she was raised as a Christian.
The court had warned her to renounce her Christianity but she held firm to her beliefs. Sudanese Parliament speaker Faith Izz Al-Deen said claims that Ibrahim was raised as non-Muslim are untrue, claiming she was raised in an Islamic environment. Her brother lodged the complaint against her which resulted in her conviction.
In addition to the death sentence, the court convicted her of adultery – as it does not recognise her marriage – and sentenced her to 100 lashes.