Primitive justice: Global pressure saves a Sudanese mother’s life

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In 2012, a young woman was sentenced to death in Sudan for marrying a Christian. Meriam Yehia Ibrahim was charged with the capital offense of renouncing Islam, the religion of the father who abandoned her when she was 6 years old.

Given that her Ethiopian mother, a Christian, raised her, Ms. Ibrahim was never in a position to renounce Islam because she never assented to it in the first place. Yet she was charged with apostasy and also adultery, which under Sudanese law occurs during marriage between a Muslim and a non-believer.

Although pregnant at the time, Ms. Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging. The barbarity of her sentence generated international outrage and condemnation for Sudan’s leaders and its archaic judicial system.

The verdict against Ms. Ibrahim violated Sudan’s 2005 constitution, which gives religious freedom to its citizens. Her lawyers seized on this and argued that their client, who gave birth to a daughter in prison, had been condemned unjustly.

On Monday, Ms. Ibrahim, 27, was released from prison after a Sudanese appeals court canceled her death sentence. Her conviction for adultery was thrown out and the annulment of her marriage set aside. The mother of two is no longer considered an apostate.

She was detained Tuesday at the airport in Khartoum and charged with traveling with falsified documents and giving false information. 

She and her family are now in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, seeking passage to the United States.

There is no reason to praise Sudan for this outcome since Ms. Ibrahim never should have been charged in the first place. A case such as this is a reminder of how harsh and primitive certain societies can be and how much evolution will be needed if they are ever to attain modern modes of justice and civilization.


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