Woman Sentenced To Death For Apostasy Is Freed For A Second Time

The pregnant Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death over her Christian faith last month was freed and rearrested as she tried to leave Sudan.

Updated, June 26, 5:30 p.m. ET

Meriam Ibrahim with her husband bbc.com / Via youtube.com

The pregnant Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith was freed for a second time Thursday, the Associated Press reports.

Police released Meriam Ibrahim, 27, in response to foreign pressure on the Sudanese government. According to the AP, she walked out of a police station in Khartoum with her newborn baby and got into a car with her husband and second child.

Ibrahim was detained Tuesday at the airport in Khartoum on charges related to alleged forged travel documents. Ibrahim’s legal team say she was interrogated, although it is not known if she was also being held for reasons related to her recent trial over her Christian faith. Ibrahim’s release Thursday was the second time in less than a month that she was freed.

Ibrahim married a Christian man from southern Sudan in 2011. Although her father is Muslim, she was raised by her Christian mother. In Sudan, however, children must follow their father’s religion. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to convert to other religions, a crime punishable by death. Muslim men can legally marry outside of their faith.

Ibrahim’s sentencing drew widespread international attention. Amnesty International deemed it “abhorrent,” and the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the decision and called on the Sudanese government to acknowledge religious freedoms.

President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir (right) poses with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani after granting him a Medal of Honor during the latter’s visit to Khartoum on April 2. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP / Getty Images

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who discussed Ibrahim’s case with the Sudanese ambassador, described her initial release as “a huge first step.”

“But the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane heading to the United States,” he added.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement praising the court’s decision to free Ibrahim and asking the government to respect its people’s “fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.”

Sudan’s then-leader Jaafar al-Nimeiri introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s, which led to an insurgency in the mostly Christian southern part of the state. South Sudan eventually seceded in 2011 and became the world’s newest country.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who has been in power since 1989, said he plans to implement stricter laws now that the non-Muslim south is no longer part of the nation.

Many other Sudanese people have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they successfully escaped execution by recanting their new faith, the Associated Press reported.

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