Days after media reported that a Sudanese mother sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith was likely to be released soon, a spokesman from Sudan's Foreign Ministry as well as the woman's husband said only courts have the jurisdiction to decide.
Daniel Wani, the husband of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese mother who is in a prison with her 20-month-old son and newborn daughter, told CNN that only the appeals court can free his wife. "I'm not aware that any release is imminent," he said.
Foreign ministry spokesman Abubakar Al-Sidiq also said that only a ruling from an appeals court can secure her release.
The only other legal way is amnesty by President Omar al-Bashir, but that is not only unlikely but also possible only after the highest court upholds the sentencing.
Abdullah Alzareg, an under-secretary at the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, had earlier said that Sudan guarantees religious freedom and vowed to protect the young mother, according to BBC.
In anticipation of Ibrahim's release, nearly 68,000 Americans so far have signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition urging the U.S. government to immediately grant refugee status to Ibrahim and her two children who are eligible for U.S. citizenship.
The young mother was convicted on April 30, and was given three days to recant her Christian faith on May 11. "The court has sentenced you to be hanged till you are dead," Judge Abaas Al Khalifa finally told her on May 15 after she refused to forsake Christianity.
Ibrahim, who was accused by her Muslim relatives, has been kept at the Omdurman Federal Women's Prison in North Khartoum with her son since Feb. 17.
Ibrahim's father was a Sudanese Muslim who left her when she was just 6 years old. She was raised by her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox. However, Sudan's Islamic law recognized her as a Muslim because her father was one. It also considers her relationship with her Christian husband as "illicit."
However, according to law in Sudan, a death sentence cannot be executed until the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court ratify the ruling. Besides, Sharia law as practiced in Sudan does allow execution of pregnant women until two years after lactation.
"I am very much optimistic that the appeal court will reverse the death sentence issued by the primary court," the lawyer said earlier. The Sudanese constitution provides for religious conversion without restriction, he added.
Dr. Faisal Abdelrahman Taha, a Sudanese legal expert on international law, told Sudan Tribune that the apostasy law in its entirety is unconstitutional.
Amid uncertainties, Ibrahim continues to be strong in her faith, according to Wani, a U.S. citizen and also a Christian.
"There is pressure on her from Muslim religious leaders that she should return to the faith," Wani, who uses a wheelchair, was quoted as saying. "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.'"
Wani said Ibrahim is a practicing Christian. "I know my wife. She's committed. Even last week, they brought in sheikhs and she told them, 'I'm pretty sure I'm not going to change my mind.'"
Wani is hopeful the appeal would lead to the court's ruling being overturned. "I'm hoping that, given the way people have come together around the world – which I want to thank them for," he said. "All the rights groups, all the broadcasters ... It's looking like it had an effect. Perhaps it will result in the judgment being overturned."