The Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum has urged Sudanese authorities to review the legal case of Meriam Ibrahim, a Catholic woman who faces a death sentence for allegedly abandoning Islam.
“The fact of the matter is that Meriam did not abandon the Islamic faith but rather she, in the first place, did not follow the Islamic religion since her childhood,” Father Mussa Timothy Kacho, episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s Khartoum region, said June 11.
He said the archdiocese has “deep regret” over the way the case was handled “in disregard to Meriam’s moral and religious belief.” He noted that Sudan’s interim constitution guarantees religious freedom.
Ibrahim was sentenced to death by hanging for abandoning Islam on May 11, 2014. She also could face 100 lashings for adultery on the grounds that her marriage to her Christian husband is not valid.
The Khartoum archdiocese called the death sentence “stunning” and called on authorities to bring the case to “a reasonable end.”
Fr. Kacho’s statement said that Ibrahim’s Muslim father abandoned the family when she was five, and she was raised by her mother as an Orthodox Christian.
“Never in her life did she embrace the Islamic religion or renounce it. She has never been a Muslim in her life,” he said.
Ibrahim “is still in Omdurman prison, practically on death row, breast feeding her child in chains,” he said.
She is being pressured to renounce Christianity but she is refusing, according to reports.
The archdiocese said that Ibrahim joined the Catholic Church in 2011 soon before she married her Catholic husband, Daniel Wani, at the Holy Family Chapel under St. Matthew Cathedral. The couple has a 20-month-old son, and Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in prison on May 28.
The couple owns several businesses in Ghedaref, including a barbershop, a market and an agricultural project. Daniel Wani, Ibrahim’s husband, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in New Hampshire.
Ibrahim was arrested in September 2013 after allegations from “a group of men who claim to be Meriam’s relatives” that the couple was not married validly under Shariah law on the grounds that she was born a Muslim. However, Ibrahim had never seen the men before, according to Fr. Kacho.
A lawyer hired by Ibrahim’s husband dropped the case due to “mounting pressure from the accusers.” Ibrahim is now being represented by the Justice Center for Advocacy.