Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag and her husband Daniel Wani in better times.
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)-- A woman sentenced to be hanged to death in Sudan for marrying a Christian American citizen and refusing to renounce her faith in Christ will be "freed within days", a government official said Saturday, May 31.
Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that Sudan "guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman," following worldwide protests.
Several European Union countries, including Britain, the Netherlands and Czech Republic, were among those condemning the "barbaric" punishment of 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, who gave birth to a daughter this week while shackled in her cell.
The baby girl met her father for the first time this week-- a moment that was captured in a bittersweet photo.
Daniel Wani, an American living in New Hampshire, held his daughter Maya in his arms as she rested, days after being born at the Sudanese prison.
RAISED AS CHRISTIAN
Ibrahim was raised a Christian by her mother and refused to become Muslim. However, a court ruled earlier this month that she is Muslim because that was her father's religion.
"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam," Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman on Thursday, May 15, addressing her by her father's Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
"I sentence you to be hanged to death." Khalifa also sentenced Ishag, still pregnant at that time, to 100 lashes for "adultery" while her Christian marriage was annulled.
Sex outside a "lawful relationship" is regarded as adultery under Sudanese Islamic law, which was introduced in 1983.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with Ishag in the caged dock for about 30 minutes, trial observers said.
EXPRESSING CHRISTIAN FAITH
She was heard calmly telling the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."
Ahmed Bilal Osman, Sudan's information minister, defended the ruling. "It's not only Sudan.
In Saudi Arabia, in all the Muslim countries, it is not allowed at all for a Muslim to change his religion."
He spoke before the release was announced, a decision that was expected to prompt protests.
Earlier this month Islamists already rallied in favor of executing the woman for "apostasy", while dozens of her supporters were seen demonstrating for her release near the court.
ISLAMIST DEMONSTRATORS SHOUTING
"This is a decision of the law. Why are you gathered here?" one Islamist demonstrators was herd saying, prompting an activist to counter: "Why do you want to execute Mariam? Why don't you bring corruptors to the court?"
Yet experts in Islamic law called the ruling outrageous.
"The punishment has little to do with religion and serves as a political distraction," Mohamed Ghilan, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, told Al Jazeera television.
"This is a ploy by the Sudanese regime to appear as 'defenders of Islam' to mitigate their corruption."