The Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to die for refusing to recant her faith gave birth this morning in a Khartoum prison to a baby girl she named Maya. Sudanese officials have postponed her execution for two years to allow her to nurse her daughter.
The court also sentenced Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, to 100 lashes for “adultery” because she married a Christian man from South Sudan. Ibrahim will reportedly endure the whipping after she has recovered from giving birth.
Ibrahim was raised solely by her Christian mother after her Muslim father abandoned them when she was a child. Despite her upbringing, she is considered a Muslim under sharia law, because of her father’s faith. Sharia forbids Muslims from marrying Christians.
Ibrahim’s case has created international outrage, in part because her husband is a U.S. citizen. Daniel Wani came to the United States in 1998 and gained his citizenship in 2005. He was trying to get his wife and 20-month-old son permission to join him in America when she was arrested in September. The toddler was imprisoned with her. Officials refuse to release him to his father because he is a Christian.
In a statement issued by the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, government officials deny Ibrahim’s claim that she was raised by a Christian mother. Both her parents were Muslims, and her case has been considered by the country’s “independent” judicial system since February, officials said.
Ibrahim’s arrest came after her half-brother and half-sister filed suit against her for apostasy and adultery. Her lawyers claim her siblings hope to take over her successful business, a general store in a shopping mall, after her execution, according to The Daily Mail.
According to the BBC, death sentences under the country’s sharia law are rarely carried out.
In their statement, Sudanese officials deny claims that Ibrahim’s case is an example of religious intolerance: “This case remains a legal issue and not a religious or a political one. It is unwise and dangerous to politicize the issue at hand to spur religious tension between the two peaceful faiths with similar foundations. Notably, it is important to emphasize that freedom of choice is the cornerstone of both Islam and Christianity.”
After her arrest, the court gave Ibrahim the “choice” to renounce Christianity or face execution. During her final hearing on May 15, she said she could not deny her faith.
The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by Ibrahim’s case and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious liberty. But several petitions and statements from U.S. lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to do more. In an open letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry the day after Ibrahim’s sentencing, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., urged him to offer her political asylum.
But the State Department has so far refused to recognize that Ibrahim’s children are American citizens. When asked last week whether she could confirm that a U.S. citizen was in a Sudanese jail, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she didn’t have any details to share.