BBC: Sudan could release woman in death sentence case

New Hampshire Union Leader
May 31. 2014 6:41PM
Gabriel Wani speaks about the situation with his sister-in-law, Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag, at Believers Christian Outreach Church in Manchester recently. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - The Manchester man whose sister-in-law was sentenced to death by hanging in Sudan was hopeful but cautious after hearing a report Saturday that she would soon be released.

The BBC quoted a Sudanese official Saturday as saying Meriam Ibrahim would be released in a few days.

Gabriel Wani said it was an encouraging update, but nothing to celebrate until his brother Daniel Wani, Ibrahim and their two young children are free and safe from the Khartoum prison where Ibrahim is being held with their 20-month old son Martin and a baby girl born last week.

"I called my brother earlier. His words were 'she's not released yet,'" Gabriel Wani said.Wani said the unpredictability of the Sudanese government has the family anxiously watching to see if the release actually takes place. Until then, the family will continue to worry and pray for the safety of Ibrahim, the newborn and the couple's toddler son.

"If I call my brother and I speak to her, then I know that she's been released," Wani said. "It makes me hopeful. Maybe a good sign is behind it."

Gabriel Wani said Daniel had heard of the report, but was treating it as a rumor until something official comes from the Sudanese government and he sees his wife outside the prison walls. Daniel Wani and his lawyer were planning to visit Ibrahim and the children at the prison today and wasn't sure whether there would be an update that soon, Gabriel Wani said by telephone Saturday.

The Sudanese court imposed the death sentence in Ibrahim's case after she refused to recant her Christian faith. The court found her guilty of apostasy, converting from Islam. Ibrahim was raised by her Christian mother, but under Sharia law she is considered to be a Muslim because her father was a Muslim. The charge is a capital offense under Sudanese law, but the severity of the sentence drew international outrage and forced pressure on the government.

"I hope the Sudanese government has been listening and lets her free," Gabriel Wani said.

Her situation has drawn international condemnation of the sentence and pressure from New Hampshire Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen for the United States to offer Ibrahim asylum.

"I hope this report is true and Sudan releases Meriam Ibrahim immediately," Ayotte said in a statement. "Her death sentence was an abhorrent violation of the fundamental human right of religious liberty, and I renew my call for the U.S. government to offer her political asylum. We cannot rest until she is safely released, and I will continue to closely monitor her situation."

The brothers fled Sudan and immigrated to New Hampshire in 1998. They have been U.S. citizens since 1998. Daniel Wani went to Sudan last summer to try to secure the paperwork needed to bring his wife and child home.

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