Sudan releases Christian woman sentenced to death for her faith; Update: State Dept to meet with lawyers tomorrow

The global outcry over the death sentence for a Christian mother seems to have worked. Earlier today, a court in Sudan overturned Meriam Yahia Ibrahim’s conviction and sentence and ordered her release. Ibrahim was due to be flogged with 100 lashes and hanged for her adherence to Christianity, but the sentence — and especially her then-pregnant status — made it a worldwide outrage:

A Sudanese woman on death row for apostasy had her sentence canceled and was ordered released by a Khartoum court on Monday, the country’s official news agency reported.

SUNA said the Court of Cassation canceled the death sentence against 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim after defense lawyers presented their case. The court ordered her release.

The Daily Mail has more:

Daniel Wani’s brother Gabriel, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, said: ‘I need to call my brother to find out what is happening.

‘If it’s true it is great news.

‘Knowing him he will want to want to bring her back to America as soon as he can. I hope he can do that’.

Safwan Abobaker, an activist who works with religious campaign group Hardwired, which is based in the US, said that the pressure to release Meriam had paid off.

He said: ‘The Sudanese government was embarrassed by all the attention so they freed her.

‘It’s better for her to come to America now as her half brother said that he would kill her if the court did not carry out the sentence.

‘The Sudanese government needs to protect Meriam and the US embassy in Sudan needs to find a way of bringing her to America quickly.

‘The US government needs to grant Meriam asylum or find a way to let her come to America right away. She needs to come to America’.

The archdiocese of Khartoum had hailed Ibrahim’s fidelity to the faith as it pressed the Sudanese court to reverse itself:

“There are many people trying to persuade Meriam to renounce Christianity in order to be freed, but she is refusing. Some people are pleading with her husband to convince her to abandon Christian faith in order to save her life, but to no avail,” the archdiocese said.

“The Catholic Church — Archdiocese of Khartoum — expresses deep regret over the way the case is being handled in the court,” with disregard of “Meriam’s moral and religious beliefs,” it said.

“We are pleading with the judiciary and other concerned authorities to review the case … and to bring it to a reasonable end,” it said.

This may be a “reasonable end,” but only in contrast to the unreasonable beginning and middle. Death sentences, prison terms, and floggings for religious conversion are an affront to human rights, and a reflection of the oppression Christians face in much of the world. The need for Ibrahim to flee Sudan to save her life even after the rescinding of the conviction and sentence provides even further demonstration of that persecution. Let’s continue to pray for Ibrahim’s safe deliverance to the US, and keep our focus on the oppression of millions of other Christians around the world.

Update: In a measure of just how dangerous it will be for Ibrahim to remain in Sudan, her attorneys have hidden the family in a safehouse, according to The Guardian:

The Sudanese state news agency Suna said: “The appeal court ordered the release of [Ibrahim] and the cancellation of the [earlier] court ruling.”

However, there was no sign of Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani or their two children at the couple’s home in Khartoum.

Mohaned Mostafa, a member of Ibrahim’s legal team, said she had been moved to a safehouse “for her protection and security”. He told Reuters: “Her family had been threatened before and we are worried that someone might try to harm her.”

The US should be acting with alacrity to offer her asylum.

Update: There is good news on the asylum front, too, at least preliminarily:

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, holds dual U.S.-Sudanese citizenship, and Ibrahim’s supporters argued that their children, including a daughter named Maya born in prison in May and a 20-month-old boy named Martin who was imprisoned with her, are U.S. citizens.

Sources close to the situation tell that Ibrahim was whisked away to a confidential location and that her lawyers will be meeting with representatives from the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday.

“This is a huge first step,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. “But the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane heading to the United States.”

Make it so.

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