KHARTOUM, Sudan — A Sudanese appeals court has freed Meriam Yehia Ibrahim and canceled the death sentence she received after refusing to recant her Christian faith, her lawyer said Monday.
Ms. Ibrahim, 27, was released from jail Monday and is now with her husband, Daniel Wani, one of her lawyers, Elshareef Ali, said by phone from the capital, Khartoum.
A Sudanese court last month sentenced Ms. Ibrahim to death by hanging in a case that sparked condemnation from governments including the United States and the United Kingdom as well as rights groups such as Amnesty International. Sudan’s government said it wouldn’t interfere in the decisions of its judiciary.
“This is a victory for the Sudanese constitution and for freedom of faith in Sudan,” Mr. Ali said. “The court canceled all the decisions taken against her, including annulling the marriage and the adultery conviction. She is now free to go anywhere.”
Ms. Ibrahim on May 27 gave birth to a girl she was caring for in prison along with her 20-month-old son. Under Sudanese law, a pregnant woman can’t be executed until she gives birth and raises the child for two years, according to Amnesty.
Ms. Ibrahim’s legal team filed an appeal May 22, saying the verdict contradicts the country’s 2005 constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion as well as international rights agreements to which Sudan is a signatory.
Her husband, Mr. Wani, an American Christian from South Sudan, said she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian mother after her Sudanese Muslim father left when she was 6 years old. She was arrested in August after men who said they were from her father’s side of the family reportedly accused her of adultery because of her marriage to a Christian man, Amnesty said.
An apostasy charge was added when she said she was never a Muslim, contradicting the court, which considered her as having the same faith as her father. Ms. Ibrahim’s marriage was annulled, and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery in accordance with Sudan’s interpretation of Islamic law, which doesn’t permit unions between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.
Sudan's Foreign Ministry said it had come under “unprecedented” international pressure to free Ms. Ibrahim. “Now that the independent Sudanese judiciary has said its word in the case of a single national, the Foreign Ministry would like to remind the international community about the continued suffering of 35 million nationals as a result of sanctions,” its statement said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the decision to release Ms. Ibrahim. “From this step, we would hope that the government of Sudan could take further strides toward a different and more hopeful future for the people of Sudan,” he said in a statement.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997 over alleged human rights violations and support for what it called “international terrorism,” then strengthened the penalties in 2006 over Khartoum's festering conflict with rebels in Darfur.
Reuters News Service and the Los Angeles Times contributed.