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Confirmed: Mary Mohammadi is in Qarchak Prison

Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi arrested and brutally beaten by prison officers

Article18 has confirmed that Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is being held in Qarchak detention centre, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

It is a month today since Mary was arrested, as protests took place in central Tehran following the Iranian government’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.

Since that time, there has been no word from Mary, although last week the Persian-language HRANA news agency reported that she was being held in Qarchak Prison.

At that time, Article18 was unable to verify this, but a reliable source has now confirmed that Mary is indeed being held there and that her bail has been set at 30 million tomans (around $2,250).

Mary’s family have been able to put together the amount, even though it is equivalent to more than the annual salary for Iranians, under the country’s current economic challenges.

However, Article18’s source explained that during the time it took for the family to obtain the amount, “Mary’s case was transferred from the prosecutor’s office to the court, which will now decide whether or not to grant her temporary release from prison”.

Mary has been charged with “disturbing public order by participating in an illegal rally” and provided with a lawyer not of her choosing.

She has been able to call home a few times to reassure her family that she is OK.

As the Iranian government has held celebrations to mark the 41st anniversary of the revolution, the legal system has slowed. With the Iranian New Year (Nowruz) only a month away, it is not clear whether there will be sufficient time for Mary’s family to secure her release before the holidays, or whether she may be forced to remain detained for longer still.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said that he was “extremely relieved” to know that Mary is OK, and hopes soon to be able to confirm her release – “albeit temporary” – from prison.

Who is Mary Mohammadi?

Mary’s case has captured the world’s attention, with even the US President, Donald Trump, citing her arrest during his recent National Prayer Breakfast speech.

Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran and, prior to her current detention, had already served six months in prison for her Christian activities, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.

Last July, Mary faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.

Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.

Just a few weeks later, on 12 January, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.

Beaten

HRANA reports that, during her detention, Mary has been beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.

After her arrest, HRANA reports that she was taken to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran, where she was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets.

She was then interrogated by three officers, who gave her forms containing 30 questions. Mary refused to answer the questions in the absence of a lawyer.

Mary was not given any food until 24 hours after her arrest and her handcuffs were put on in a cross-shape, making them very uncomfortable.

Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.

The next day, she was taken to Evin Court, where she was charged. Her case was then transferred to the General and Criminal Court of Tehran.

Mary is now one of around 2,000 women prisoners in the overcrowded Qarchak Prison, which is considered the worst women’s prison in Iran and has been sanctioned by the US for “gross human rights violations”, including abuse, arbitrary beatings, little drinking water and “creating an environment for rape and murder”, noted Open Doors.

This article was updated on 13 February to include the new information from HRANA.

VOP Note: Please pray for Mary and Christian converts in Iran.

CRIMEA: Court orders Christians to destroy chapel

Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel, Yevpatoriya ©Krymr.org (RFE/RL)

Forum 18 reports the Orthodox Church of Ukraine fears that the authorities in the western Crimean city of Yevpatoriya will demolish a small wooden chapel it built in 2013, before Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The city court ruled on 6 November 2019 that the Church is using the site illegally and that it should demolish its chapel within one month.

The Church complains it learned about the court hearing only on that day. Its lawyer said the Church is appealing against the decision (see below).

Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Yefymenko visited the Yevpatoriya church during Sunday liturgy on 1 December, which was attended by “a large number of parishioners” squeezing into the small church. Many had come specially from other cities of Crimea, she told Forum 18. “Representatives of the Russian special services may come to such liturgies under the guise of parishioners, and record those who visit places of worship of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” she said.

Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea is not recognized by Ukraine or internationally.

UNHRC call to halt Cathedral eviction

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the Russian government not to evict the Orthodox Church of Ukraine congregation from its rented accommodation in the Crimean capital Simferopol while the Committee considers an appeal by 62 parishioners. The premises serve as the Crimean Diocese’s Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral.

On 18 November a Russian arbitration court rejected the Diocese’s latest appeal against a court order to annul the rental agreement and evict the Cathedral. On 28 November, the Diocese lodged a last-ditch appeal to Russia’s Supreme Court in Moscow.

The now Kiev-based lawyer for the Church, Sergei Zayets of the Regional Centre for Human Rights, told Forum 18 that the chapel was built on land belonging to the community of those living in the flats.

According to court documents seen by Forum 18, the wooden chapel is 5.5 metres (18 feet) by 5.5 metres and its height to the top of the gold-painted cross on the wooden onion dome is just over 10 metres (35 feet).

Obstructing, punishing worship

The Russian authorities in Crimea use the wide range of available laws and regulations to punish communities that meet for worship in places or in ways the authorities do not like.

The Crimean Justice Ministry has rejected the registration application from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s Simferopol parish, most recently on 20 September. It claimed there were “violations” in the documents presented. A Justice Ministry official insisted to Forum 18 from Simferopol that “nothing in principle” obstructs the registration of communities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Massive rent increase and evictions

The Kiev Patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as it then was, has rented premises that earlier housed the Officers’ Club in central Simferopol since 1995. It is there that its Simferopol and Crimea Diocesan Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral and offices are located. The Diocese has three floors of the building, with the sanctuary on the middle floor.

Almost all the Kiev Patriarchate’s dioceses and parishes – including in Crimea – joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine when it was recognised as canonical by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in January 2019.

In 1996 ultimate ownership of the Simferopol building was transferred from a disbanded military base to the Crimean Property Fund. In 1997, under a Crimean Supreme Council decree, rent was set at the symbolic level of 1 Ukrainian Hryvnia (0.5 Norwegian Kroner, 0.05 Euros or 0.08 US Dollars) a month.

Five of the Kiev Patriarchate’s churches in Crimea were forced to close within months of the March 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.

The Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral – which is next to the offices of the Property Fund – appears on a list of state-owned property in an attachment to a 15 March 2000 Crimean Supreme Council decree. A 16 May 2001 Supreme Council decree – seen by Forum 18 – governs the Church’s use of the building, whose size it gives as 1,475.7 square metres (15,900 square feet).

However, on 18 April 2014, the State Council (which replaced the Supreme Council) adopted a new decree – which remains on the Russian-backed Crimean government website – amending the 2001 decree. It confirmed the Diocese’s rental of the premises until 2050 but changed the basis on which rent is levied.

Archbishop Kliment (Kushch), head of the Diocese, told Forum 18 in June 2014 that the change would result in the Diocese having to pay about 160 Russian Roubles per square metre per month (236,112 Roubles, then equivalent to 42,990 Norwegian Kroner, 5,145 Euros, or 7,000 US Dollars a month). “We’re a non-commercial organisation – how can we pay commercial rates? We live on donations.”

No Russian registration, no rental

The Russian-controlled Crimean State Council amended the Crimean Law on the Particulars of Regulating Property and Land Issues in Crimea on 31 July 2018. This required that any rental contract for state-owned or municipally-owned property with an organisation that had state registration under Ukrainian law but which failed to gain registration under Russian law after the 2014 annexation be cancelled through the courts.

In his explanation presented to the Crimean State Council justifying the amendment, the head of Crimea’s Russian-backed government Sergei Aksyonov noted several Ukrainian-owned companies in such a position, but made no mention of the Orthodox congregation in Simferopol.

Courts order eviction

On 31 January 2019, the Crimean Property and Land Issues Ministry asked the Federal Tax Service and Justice Ministry in Crimea if the Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine had brought its documents into line with Russian law (i.e. if it had Russian registration). Finding that it had not, the Ministry wrote to the Diocese on 5 February cancelling the rental agreement and asking when Ministry inspectors could visit the premises to arrange the “return” of the building. To read full report click here

CRIMEA: “Anti-missionary” prosecutions double in 2018

Compared to the first year they were implemented, punishments in Russian-occupied Crimea for ill-defined “missionary activity” doubled in 2018. Of 23 prosecutions for sharing faith or holding worship at unapproved venues, 19 ended in punishment. Also, 17 cases were brought for communities not using their full legal name.

In Russian-occupied Crimea in 2018 there were 23 prosecutions brought against individuals for ill-defined “missionary activity”, of which 19 ended with punishment, Forum 18 has found. Many of those punished were prosecuted for sharing their faith on the street or for holding worship at unapproved venues. Cases against two more are due to be heard in mid-January 2019.

This represents a doubling of such cases in the Crimean peninsula since the first year such punishments for “missionary activity” were imposed. July 2016 to July 2017 saw 13 known cases of which 8 ended in punishment.

“These punishments do have an impact,” one member of a religious community in Crimea who was earlier fined for sharing their faith on the street told Forum 18 on 9 January 2019. “Believers go out to share their faith less often, and give out publications or invitations less openly. It is a question not just of fines – if you don’t pay then fines are doubled, then if you still don’t pay they impose compulsory labour.” Read More

Kurds in Syria Shutdown Assyrian School for Refusing Kurdish Curriculum

Derbiseye, Syria

(AINA) — Kurdish PKK authorities closed an Assyrian (Christian) school in Derbiseye, Syria after Assyrian school officials refused to adopt a Kurdish teaching curriculum. The Kurdish PKK prosecutor in Derik/Malikiye, Syria, issued the order on August 7, which is Assyrian Martyrs Day.

The Syrian government is expected to take control of all schools in the area in the upcoming weeks, but that did not stop PKK officials from attempting to impose the Kurdish curriculum on Assyrians.

The PKK has targeted Assyrian schools in the past. In November, 2015 sixteen Assyrian and Armenian organizations issued a statement protesting Kurdish expropriation of private property in the Hasaka province of Syria. The statement accused the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian wing of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), of human rights violations, expropriation of private property, illegal military conscription and interference in church school curricula.

The Kurdish-language primary school curricula introduced by the PYD-led Kurdish authorities in northern Syria in October, 2015 was heavily criticized for being too ideological and “prioritizing a single view over all others.”

The Assyrian Bishop in Hasaka, Maurice Amsih, denounced the Kurdish curriculum in September, 2016

PHILIPPINES – Ten activists killed: Christians to protest against Duterte on Dec. 10th

Bulatlat

“The despotic regime of President Duterte is transforming the whole country into an extermination camp”

(Agenzia Fides) – “Killing a human being means violating his inviolable and inalienable right to life. Killing a priest who is a consecrated person and preventing him from continuing his apostolate in favor of the poor, the excluded and the marginalized is an even graver sin and a crime that shouts to heaven for justice. We live these killings of priests and pastors in the Year of Clergy and Consecrated, a sign of the inestimable gift of life”: this is how Bishop Edwin de La Pena, Bishop of the tortured city of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, comments to Agenzia Fides the murder of 72-year-old Don Tito Paez, priest of the diocese of San jose, victim of an extrajudicial execution on 4 December 2017. This is the first Catholic priest killed under President Duterte’s government. “I join my voice in denouncing this evil act to prevent him from fulfilling his prophetic task of defending those who are unjustly deprived of their basic human rights”, says the Bishop.

On 3 December, Protestant pastor Lovelito Quiñones, 57, was shot dead in Mansalay, in the province of Eastern Mindoro. On the same day, eight indigenous people (the so-called “lumad”) were killed by soldiers by the Philippine army in the province of South Cotabato in Mindanao.
Civil society groups, Catholic organizations and human rights defenders deplore and condemn the killing of these 10 activists in just a few days, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on 10 December. According to the groups, who manifest dissent in various parts of Manila, the killing of civilians and activists, often by “death squads”, recall the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinando Marcos. Among the protest groups there are the civil society forum “Karapatan”, and the “rural Missionaries of the Philippines” who complain about “state terrorism” and have announced a major demonstration in Luneta Parl in Manila on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Nuns, religious, priests and young Catholics and Protestants will be among those present at the protest.

“The despotic regime of President Duterte is transforming the whole country into an extermination camp”, said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of “Karapatan”, raising the alarm on human rights violations across the country. “Unarmed civilians have become targets of state security forces” she noted, hoping for “a serious investigation into the murders”.

“Karapatan” attributes the latest attacks against the military program of “counter-insurgency” launched by Duterte, called “Oplan Kapayapaan”, similar to that promoted by the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, that carried out 1,206 extrajudicial killings, mostly activists and alleged supporters of the Communist armed groups of the “New People’s Army”. In a speech on November 29, Duterte urged soldiers to shoot members of the New People’s Army. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/12/2017)

Pakistani Christians staged protest in front of Embassy of Thailand

Pakistan-refugee

Holland: February 1, 2016. (PCP) On 29 January, 2016 between 2.00 to 4.00 p.m. Pakistani Christians in large numbers from Holland and Belgium gathered in front of Embassy of Royal Kingdom of Thailand to protest and raise their voices for voiceless Pakistani Christian Asylum Seekers struggling for life, safety, Refugee Rights and indeed greatest sufferings of current century in the territory of Royal Kingdom of Thailand. Read More

PAKISTAN – Appeal of Jurists to Repeal Unfair Blasphemy Law

 

blasphemy

People accused of violating Pakistan’s draconian “blasphemy laws” face proceedings that are glaringly flawed, said the ICJ in a new report published today.

“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws fly in the face of Pakistan’s international legal obligations, including the duties to respect the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “But even worse, those facing accusations of blasphemy suffer through trials that are often fundamentally unfair.”

In the 60-page report On Trial: the Implementation of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, the ICJ has documented in detail systematic and widespread fair trial violations in proceedings related to blasphemy offences in Pakistan, particularly in trial courts.

Some of the problems documented in the report include:

  • Intimidation and harassment of judges and lawyers that impede on the independence of the judiciary and the right to a defense;
  • Demonstrable bias and prejudice against defendants by judges during the course of blasphemy proceedings and in judgments;
  • Violations of the right to effective assistance of counsel;
  • Rejection of bail and prolonged pre-trial detention;
  • Incompetent investigation and prosecution that do not meet due diligence requirements under the law;
  • The prosecution and detention of people living with mental disabilities;
  • Inhumane conditions of detention and imprisonment, including prolonged solitary confinement.

Pakistan’s laws on “offences related to religion” – sections 295-298-C of the Penal Code that are commonly known as “blasphemy laws” – include a variety of crimes including misusing religious epithets, “defiling” the Holy Quran, deliberately outraging religious sentiment, and using derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sentences for these offences range from fines to long terms of imprisonment, and in the case of defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (section 295-C), a mandatory death sentence.

“Section 295 is a relic of the British colonial system that lends itself to human rights violations, including in Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and elsewhere,” Zarifi said. “In Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq made additions to the laws that made them truly draconian.”

Based on the analysis of over 100 judgments of the high courts and courts of first instance from 1986-2015 as well as interviews with defendants in blasphemy cases, their families, and defense counsel; judges, lawyers and police officials; and human rights activists, the report found:

  • In 19 out of 25 cases under section 295-C (defamation of the Prophet Muhammad) studied by the ICJ, high courts have acquitted individuals convicted for blasphemy by trial courts. Glaring procedural irregularities and mala fide complaints are the grounds for acquittal on appeal in over 80 per cent of cases;
  • Even in cases that ultimately result in acquittal, blasphemy proceedings suffer from undue delay – proceedings in trial courts can take on average three years, and appeals can take even longer, more than five years on average;
  • Individuals accused of blasphemy under section 295-C are frequently denied bail even though they meet requirements under the law;
  • Individuals detained pending trial or convicted for blasphemy are often kept in prolonged solitary confinement, at times, over a number of years.

The report also confirms concerns recently raised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that individuals accused of blasphemy ‘suffer beyond proportion or repair’, in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such blasphemy laws, the Geneva-based organization says.

The ICJ has also made a number of recommendations to the Pakistani executive, legislative and judicial branches to address the defects in the framing of the blasphemy laws as well as of the shortcomings at the investigative, prosecutorial, procedural, administrative and judicial levels highlighted in the report to minimize the misuse of the blasphemy laws and ensure that those accused of blasphemy have a fair chance at defending themselves.

“It’s time Pakistan and other countries got rid of these noxious laws, which continue to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, and instead promote extremism and intolerance,” Zarifi added.

 

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – In Pakistan it is necessary to repeal the blasphemy law: this is what the “International Commission of Jurists” an organization consisting of more than 60 eminent jurists from around the world, with headquarters in Geneva ask for in a report sent to Fides. The organization criticized this legislation defined as “cruel” also for the punishment it provides: life imprisonment or death penalty.

The jurists are asking the government to “modify it because so it is in line with international standards on freedom of expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, pointing out that the abuse of the law, used to resolve private disputes, regarding business or property is very common in Pakistan.

According to data of the “Justice and Peace” National Commission, 200 Christians, 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 21 Hindu have been charged with offenses related to “blasphemy” since 1987. But, given that religious minorities represent a very small percentage of the majority Muslim population “the number of Christians and members of other religious minorities accused is massively disproportionate to the number of Muslims accused, although the number of Muslims accused is overall higher”.
Out of 25 cases of appeals at the High Court for blasphemy, the International Court of Justice – the report notes – found that in most cases (60%), the applicants were acquitted after judges ruled that the charges brought against them were “fabricated or used for personal or political reasons.”
The Commission of Jurists immediately asks for the abolition of the death penalty for crimes of blasphemy and the urgent need to establish with certainty the intent of the offender, before condemning him. It also denounced the extrajudicial killings, remained unpunished, victims of whom are often those accused of blasphemy, although innocent. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2015)

Saudi Arabia: The World’s Greatest Hypocrite

Photo: raymondibrahim.com

Photo: raymondibrahim.com

Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”

If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette(emphasis added):

Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any actvilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

 

Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s owninstitutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.

Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”  Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they arearrested and punished.

Any cross or other non-Muslim symbol found is confiscated and destroyed. Anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam” can be executed.

In 2011, a Colombian soccer-player “was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.”  In 2010 a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, causing public outrage.

And yet, Saudi Arabia has the unmitigated gall to ask the West—where Islam is freely practiced, where mosques and Korans proliferate, and where Muslims are granted full equality—to cease “discrimination based on religion.”

Continues the Saudi Gazette:

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, few countries exhibit as much “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” as does the Arabian kingdom.  Along with the aforementioned discrimination and intolerance against all other religions, Saudi Arabia is notoriously clannish and racist.

Ten percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race; black men are barred from holding many government positions; black women are often put on trial for “witchcraft”; castrated African slaves are sold on Facebook in the birthplace of Islam, and its princes are known to beat their black slaves to death. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.

Worse of all is if you’re black and Christian.  After 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer, one of them said after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”

This is unsurprising considering that the Saudi education system makes it a point to indoctrinate Muslim children with hatred, teaching that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”

According to Saudi novelist Hani Naqshabandi, “Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought….  They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam.  So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”

Again, bear in mind that all this is official Saudi policy—not the “free expressions” of individuals, which the Saudis are condemning as creating “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” around the world.

The Saudi Gazette goes on to quote one Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, “a senior Saudi official.” Speaking at the recent international symposium in France which hosted representatives from 16 European nations, he said that Western “freedom of expression without limits or restrictions” are “abuses [that] bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations…”

Again, it bears reemphasizing that in the West individuals are free to express themselves.  And it’s just that—expression, not action (as in murder, terrorism, rape, enslavement, church bombings, or the slaughter of “apostates”).

As for Western governments, thanks to political correctness, not only do they discourage freedom of expression but honest, objective talk concerning Islam is suppressed (hence every Western leader maintains that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” AKA, “the religion of peace”).

Meanwhile, it is precisely Islamic teachings that breed “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations,” and not just in Saudi Arabia but all throughout the Muslim world.  And it is precisely these teachings that prompt Western peoples to criticize Islam, including through cartoons.

None of this is enough to embarrass the Saudis from their farce:

Al-Omari said the Saudi participation in the symposium falls in line with its efforts to support the principles of justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance in the world as well as to emphasize the importance of respecting religions and religious symbols.

Actually, because of Saudi Arabia’s absolute lack of “justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance,” even the U.S. State Department lists the home of Islam and Muhammad as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern.”

Thus in ultra-hypocritical manner, Saudi Arabia asks the international community to stop exercising freedom of expression—even as it openly and unapologetically persecutes non-Muslims, discriminates against non-Saudis, and violates the most basic of human rights on a daily basis.

It still remains to determine which is more surreal, more unbelievable: that Saudi Arabia, which tops the charts of state-enforced religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination, is calling on the West “to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance,” or that the West deigns to participate in such disgracefully hypocritical forums.

By Raymond Ibrahim cross-posted FrontPageMag

Judge in #Sudan Confirms Death Sentence, Whipping, for #Pregnant Christian Woman

sudan-map-2(Morning Star News) – A judge in Sudan confirmed the death sentence for “apostasy” (leaving Islam) for a pregnant Christian woman after she refused to recant, sources said.

After her conviction on April 30, Judge Abaas Al Khalifa had given Meriam Yahia Ibrahim 15 days to recant or be executed, with the ultimatum repeated at her hearing on Sunday (May 11). He also confirmed the sentence of 100 lashes for having sex with her husband, considered illicit in Islam because he is a Christian.

“The court has sentenced you to be hanged till you are dead,” Al Khalifa told Ibrahim, who also has a 20-month-old son, after Islamist crowds shouted for the court to punish her.

As other Sudanese convicted of leaving Islam have recanted their new faiths in order to avoid execution, the 27-year-old Ibrahim is the first person to be sentenced to death under Sudan’s apostasy law, according to Amnesty International.

Before the court appearance, a Muslim scholar went to Ibrahim – as has happened repeatedly since her incarceration without trial in February – and spent nearly 40 minutes trying to force her to recant, sources said. She told him what she told the judge.

“I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim,” she told Al Khalifa in court.

Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father who disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old and an Ethiopian mother who was Ethiopian Orthodox. Though her mother raised her as a Christian, Islamic law asserts that she was Muslim by birth because her father was Muslim.

“She is due to give birth any minute,” a lawyer at the Justice Center Sudan (JCS), which is handling her case, told Morning Star News. “They will transfer her to different department to wait for her sentence. They will flog her 100 lashes as soon as she recovers from childbirth.”

He added, however, that attorneys will file an appeal of the sentence on Sunday (May 18), which would put off execution of the sentence, including the flogging, until there is a ruling.

“Meriam is very encouraged by the international support she is receiving from the international community,” the attorney said. “She hopes that people stand with her and her family until she gets her freedom.”

Her husband, a south Sudanese national who also has U.S. citizenship named Daniel Wani, said she has not received adequate medical care, and he fears that will continue as they await the birth of their second child.

“She might deliver her baby any time from now up to June 1,” Wani told Morning Star News. “She is weak, but she is not afraid of death.”

The couple faces termination of their marriage as it has been ruled illegal, though charges of proselytization and “adultery” against Wani have been dropped. Unless her case is dismissed on religious rights grounds and their marriage restored, their children will become wards of the state to be raised as Muslims.

Last year someone who said he was a relative of Ibrahim opened a case against them in Halat Kuku Court of Khartoum North for alleged “adultery” under article 146 of the Sudan Criminal Code because of her marriage to a Christian, rights workers said. Wani was accused of proselytizing a Muslim, and eventually authorities added the apostasy charge to Ibrahim.

Sudan’s notorious Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif in Khartoum North initially charged Ibrahim with apostasy and “adultery” (relations with her husband) on March 4. No one has been executed for apostasy in Sudan since the Sudan Criminal Code of 1991 made it punishable by the death penalty.

“Mrs. Ibrahim’s sentence is inhumane and unwarranted,” said Kiri Kankhwende, press officer for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which has advocated for her along with other international organizations since Morning Star News revealed the case. “CSW calls for it to be annulled and for the immediate release of Mrs. Ibrahim and her son, who is being held in violation of article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

As a Sudanese citizen, Kankhwende said, Ibrahim is entitled to freedom of religion of belief under the Sudanese constitution.

“Consequently, this sentence amounts to a violation of the Sudanese Constitution and of international conventions to which Sudan is party, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights,” she said.

Western embassies in Khartoum reportedly condemned the sentence, as did London-based Amnesty International.

“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is appalling and abhorrent,” Amnesty said in a statement. “Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all.”

The organization also called for her immediate and unconditional release.

Since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to make Sudan more strictly Islamic.

In addition to Muslim crowds calling for the court to punish Ibrahim with banners such as one that read, “She must die because has changed her religion,” another group protested on her behalf.

“Do not take life of Meriam,” one banner read.

Speak out for this Christian sister and PRAY!

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