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Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim detained again

A Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for apostasy has been freed - and rearrested. Fears about religious freedom in Sudan remain


MeriamThe appeal court reviewing the case of Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery on 11 May, has quashed the original verdict and declared her innocent of all charges.

She was released on Monday along with her two children, the youngest of which she gave birth to while in prison, and reunited with her husband.

On Tuesday she and her family were arrested again at Khartoum Airport. They were initially detained by the Sudanese National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) and taken to the NISS offices near the airport, before being transferred to a police station in Khartoum.
 
The police have refused to release the family on bail and have stated they require 24 hours to conclude their investigation. Mrs Ibrahim has not been charged with any offence; however the police are investigating alleged irregularities with her travel documents, according to Christianity Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), one of the organisations which campainged for her release.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We are deeply concerned by the news that Mrs Ibrahim and her family have been detained less than 24 hours after she was declared innocent and freed from prison.

'We urge the Sudanese authorities to release this family. Holding them without charge amounts to arbitrary detention and is in violation of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a signatory.'

Mrs Ibrahim's initial sentence sparked worldwide outrage, with UK political leaders such as David Cameron, Nick Clegg and David Miliband among those speaking out, and concerns remain over religious freedoms in Sudan.

While welcoming news of her acquittal, CSW warned that she and her lawyers remained in danger.

In a statement CSW said that members of Mrs Ibrahim’s current legal team have received threats from extremists who have deemed their actions as ‘un-Islamic’, adding that they too should receive deaths sentences.

Pressure has also come from Mrs Ibrahim’s accusers; her alleged brother has publicly stated the family would carry out the death sentence should the court acquit her. According to local sources, other alleged family members have also issued daily threats statements in the Sudanese press against the lawyers, and AFP News Agency reports that extremist groups have lobbied the Sudanese government to uphold the sentence. 
 
Mr Thomas said, 'We are delighted to hear that Mrs Ibrahim and her children have been released into the care of her husband and that the unjust, inhumane and unwarranted sentences have been annulled.

'However, we remain appalled by the threats and hate speech that has been aired seemingly unhindered against Mrs Ibrahim and her lawyers and urge the international community to hold the Sudanese authorities to account for her safety and that of her lawyers.

'The right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed both by international statutes to which Sudan is party and article 38 of Sudan’s Interim Constitution. The Sudanese authorities have a duty to ensure the protection of any citizen who seeks to exercise or uphold this right.'

Elsewhere the charity Release International also voiced its fears for Mrs Ibrahim, despite her release. Sudan’s law and constitution are at odds, the charity explained. It is a capital offence for a Muslim to change their faith, while the interim constitution of 2005 states ‘every person shall have the right to freedom of creed and worship’. The constitution also forbids religious coercion.
 
These protections, already contested, could be removed from the forthcoming permanent constitution, which President Omar al-Bashir has declared should be ‘100 per cent Islamic.’ The imposition of sharia (Islamic law) on the Christian and animist south was a factor that led to the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
 
‘Religious coercion - persecution by another name - is already getting worse for Christians in Sudan, despite the constitution,’ said Paul Robinson, Release Chief Executive. ‘The authorities are becoming more rigid in their enforcement of Islamic law. They have demolished churches and deported Christians. And if it hadn’t been for an international outcry, they might have taken the life of this woman.’

Baptist Times, 24/06/2014

 
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