Skip to main content

Husband of Sudanese Christian on death row says appeals court is deliberating

By Nima Elbagir and Faith Karimi, CNN
June 8, 2014 -- Updated 0439 GMT (1239 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was condemned to die by hanging last month
  • Her apostasy conviction came after she refused to renounce her Christianity
  • Her husband says the appeals court sent him formal notice of deliberations

Khartoum, Sudan (CNN) -- A Sudanese appeals court has started deliberating the case of a woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, her husband said.

Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, was condemned to die by hanging last month after she declined to profess she is a Muslim, the religion of her father.

Sharia law considers her a Muslim and does not recognize her marriage to a Christian. She said she was raised as a Christian by her mother after her father walked out on them.

"Formal notification was given to myself and my lawyer that the appeals court has begun deliberation of Mariam's case," said Daniel Wani, her husband.

He said he got the notice Thursday.

Seeking asylum in the U.S.

As the case goes through the courts, Wani, who is an American citizen, said he is asking U.S. officials to expedite the asylum process for his wife.

If she's released, their lives could be in grave danger in Sudan, he said.

"I am scared for all our lives -- me, my wife and my two children -- if we have to remain inside Sudan, even a day after her release."

Wani said he is appealing his home state lawmakers, New Hamphire's U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte.

Committed to her religion

The court convicted Ibrahim of apostasy on May 15. At the time, she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl late last month at a Khartoum prison, where she's detained with Martin, her 20-month-old son.

Despite languishing in prison with two infants, she's holding firm to her beliefs, according to her husband.

"There is pressure on her from Muslim religious leaders that she should return to the faith," Wani told CNN in a TV exclusive. "She said, 'How can I return when I never was a Muslim? Yes, my father was a Muslim, but I was brought up by my mother.' "

Christian sentenced to death
Will Sudan execute jailed young mother?
Husband: All I can do is pray

Wani said his wife is a practicing Christian, more so than him, and even had their son baptized.

"I know my wife. She's committed," he said. "They brought in sheikhs (to the prison) and she told them, 'I'm pretty sure I'm not going to change my mind.' "

Wani said he is thrilled about his new daughter but hopes her birth doesn't hasten his wife's death sentence.

In past cases involving pregnant or nursing women, Sudan waited until the mother had weaned her child before executing any sentence. Sharia law as practiced in Sudan prohibits carrying out the death sentence on a pregnant woman until two years after she gives birth.

CNN sought comment from the Sudanese government and was directed to the justice ministry. A CNN request for an interview was denied, and the justice minister said they don't comment on matters that are going through the courts.

An attempt to contact Sudan's foreign affairs minister was unsuccessful.

Muslim relatives turned her in

Ibrahim was arrested after Muslim relatives accused her of renouncing her religion.

Their complaint alleged that she went missing for years, and her family was shocked to find out she married a Christian.

Wani said he'd never met the relatives who made the accusations. His wife, he said, was raised a Christian by her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox, after her Muslim father deserted the family when she was 6.

"These people filed charges claiming that she was their sister and filed a police report saying that she had disappeared," he said.

Brother: Repent or die

However, one of Ibrahim's brothers, Al-Samani al-Hadi, tells a different story.

He claims Wani --- whom he called "the priest" -- fed his sister "potions" to convert her to Christianity. He wants her to repent.

"But if she refuses she should be executed," he told CNN last week.

At first, Ibrahim was charged with adultery for marrying a Christian. The apostasy accusation was added after she maintained she was a Christian, according to her husband.

She's been detained since January 17. In addition to the death sentence, the court sentenced her to 100 lashes for the adultery conviction.

CNN's Nima Elbagir reported from Khartoum, and Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta.

Part of complete coverage on
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT