Christian Sudanese woman spared death sentence for apostasy arrives in Rome

A Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, then acquitted after intense international pressure on Khartoum, arrived on Thursday in Rome with her family en route to the United States.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was greeted on the tarmac by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzo and his wife as well as Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli.

“Today is a day of celebration”, Renzi said.  A global outcry erupted in May after Ishag was sentenced under Sharia law to 100 lashings and then to hang for apostasy.

Days after her conviction, she gave birth to a second child in prison.  Ishag’s conviction was overturned in June, but she was immediately rearrested while trying to leave Sudan using what prosecutors claimed were forged documents.  Two days later, Ishag was released from prison and she and her family — including her American husband and two young children — took refuge in the US embassy.

Ishag was born to a Muslim father who abandoned the family, and was raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum which said she joined the Catholic church shortly before she married.

Ishag was convicted under Islamic Sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions which are punishable by death.  Her case has raised questions of religious freedom and sparked an outcry from Western governments and human rights groups.


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