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FLORA LYIMO TZUK
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
BY FLORA LYIMO ~ HONGERA SANA MERIAM KWA KUMZAA MWANAO LEO IN PRISON ''I FEEL SO SICK '' NALIAA KWA UCHUNGU NA FURAHA''MUNGU YUPO PAMOJA NA WEWE'' WHERE IS THE WORLD POWERFUL PEOPLE? OBAMA WHERE ARE YOU ? NA WENZAKO PLEASE HELP MERIAM NOW''
Meriam Ibrahim has given birth in a Sudanese jail after being handed the death sentence because a court did not recognise her marriage to Christian Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire''
A doctor who is facing execution in Sudan for marrying a Christian gave birth to a baby girl in prison today.
Meriam Ibrahim, who has spent the past four months shackled to the floor in a disease-ridden jail, gave birth five days prematurely.
The baby was born in the hospital wing at Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in North Khartoum and is said to be healthy.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, her lawyer Mohaned Mustafa Elnour said: 'This is some good news in what has been a terrible ordeal for Meriam.
'I am planning to visit her with her husband Daniel later today. I think they are going to call the baby Maya.’
Holding out hope: Daniel Wani outside his home in Khartoum, Sudan, ash he awaits the fate of his wife who has been held in shackles in prison with their toddler son Martin next to her''
Meriam, 27, was sentenced to death by hanging earlier this month after being found guilty of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian man, U.S. citizen Daniel Wani, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.
She will receive 100 lashes before she is executed - sometime in the next two years.
Before the birth, Meriam made the defiant claim that she would rather die than give up her faith.
Bleak: The Omdurman Women's Jail in Khartoum, Sudan where Meriam Ibrahim is being held
Meriam has been locked up in the notorious women's prison in Khartoum since September after being charged with adultery and apostasy and given the death sentence
She told him: 'I refuse to change. I am not giving up Christianity just so that I can live.
'I know I could stay alive by becoming a Muslim and I would be able to look after our family, but I need to be true to myself.’
Daniel, a 27-year-old biochemist, revealed his wife’s defiant stance during an exclusive interview with MailOnline at his modest home in the dusty Sudanese capital city of Khartoum.
Sitting beneath glamorous photographs of his wife taken at their wedding in December 2011, he said: 'My wife is very, very strong. She is stronger than me.
'When they sentenced her to death I broke down and tears were streaming down my eyes. Our lawyers were passing me tissues. But she stayed strong.
'She did not flinch when she was sentenced. It was amazing to see, particularly because she is the one facing the death penalty.’
Daniel was in Khartoum trying to arrange for Meriam and their 20-month-old son Martin to live with him in the US when his wife was arrested in September. She was three weeks pregnant with their second child.
She has been held since February in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison, North Khartoum, with Martin.
Heartbreaking: This image captures the first time Daniel Wani was allowed to see his son, Daniel, and wife, Meriam Ibrahim, since September after she was jailed for marrying a Christian in Sudan''
Rotten care: Martin is given a drink by prison guards. Daniel is not allowed to take custody of Martin because the authorities have ruled that the toddler is Muslim'
The authorities will not release Martin into the care of his father because they claim he is a Muslim too.
She spends much of her time shackled to the floor, is not receiving enough nutrition in her food to cope with the rigours of a difficult pregnancy and is rarely allowed outside.
Both she and her bewildered son have contracted various illnesses because of the poor sanitation at the jail.
A report by Human Rights Watch claims the prison is 'beset with overcrowding’ and suffers from 'poor sanitation, disease and the deaths of many children living with their mothers’.
Daniel, who is originally from South Sudan, but is now a naturalized American, was initially refused permission to visit her.
Describing his first visit after she had been inside for two months , he said: 'The first time I only had ten minutes and we never even had a conversation with each other.
'I had to attend to my son first and once I had done that I was told by the prison guards that my time was up.
'I wanted to take Martin away with me, but I knew I couldn’t. It’s not good place to be for a little boy to be. I am not allowed to spent time with them because the Sudanese officials do not recognise them as my wife and son.
Cruel: Martin, above, is pictured biting his lip unaware of the terrible fate his mother, Meriam, faces after being sentenced to hang for refusing to consider herself a Christian. His family claim he is American because his father has been granted U.S. citizenship''
Desperate: Daniel and Martin sit with their lawyer, Mr Mohand, during a visit. Daniel is wheelchair bound as he suffers from muscular dystrophy'
'They say the marriage is void. Now, even my wife is no longer my wife. And my son is not mine and my new daughter is not mine. They say I am a stranger to them.
'I know my wife puts on a brave face but I can tell that she is in quite a bit of pain. She doesn’t get to leave the room for weeks.
'She has suffered medical complications while in jail, but no one knows the full extent of what they are because she is in prison. It’s a difficult time. To see her walking in chains is difficult.’
Daniel, who is wheelchair-bound because he suffers from muscular dystrophy, cuts a forlorn figure as he wheels himself around his empty house.
His child’s bed lies unused, as does a child-sized toothbrush. Daniel keeps himself busy by studying the regular barrage of paperwork that his legal team send him.
Like many in Sudan, both Daniel and his wife’s childhood were blighted by civil war.
Daniel managed to escape the brutal conflict in 1998 when he travelled to America with his brother Gabriel.
The biochemist returned to Sudan to marry Meriam at a Christian service in a chapel which was attended by around 500 people in December 2011.
Fighting for justice: The legal team from the Justice centre in Sudan trying to free Meriam Ibrahim includes (l to r) Thabit Alzubain, Mohned Mustafa, Mohammed Abdalnabe, Osman Mobarek, Elshareef Ali''
Most who were at the wedding ceremony could vouch for the pair being committed Christians, defence lawyers say.
But witnesses who were willing to give evidence on her behalf were barred from testifying because they were Christian.
She even produced a marriage certificate identifying herself as a Christian.
Despite this, the judge determined that because her father was a Muslim, even though he abandoned the family while they were living in a refugee camp in the South East of Sudan when she was six, she too was a Muslim who had broken the law by leaving Islam.
But her mother, who is now dead, brought her up as Christian. Her mother was born in Ethiopia to Christian parents, but fled to Sudan because of famine, and chose to raise her daughter in the same religion.
Meriam was arrested in mid-September, three weeks after her second child was conceived.
At first the couple dismissed the allegations against them as trivial, but when the case grew more serious Daniel went to the American Embassy in Khartoum for help.
'I thought this would be the one place which would help me, but they told me they didn’t have time to do anything,’ Daniel said. 'I was upset because now that I am American citizen I thought they would help me.
'I was threatened. They said “well your wife isn’t American, so we can’t help”. I felt disgusted. My home is in America and still they won’t help. It’s getting uglier and it’s not going in the right direction.’
Mr Wani said the State Department asked him to provide DNA evidence proving that Martin was his biological son.
He added: 'I have provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough. It’s very upsetting that they don’t believe me.
'They want me to take a DNA sample in Khartoum, then send it to the US for testing. It’s as if they don’t believe a word I say.’
Meriam insists she has always been a Christian and told her husband she could not 'pretend to be a Muslim' just to spare her life'
The Sharia court has postponed her sentence, to give her time to recover from childbirth and to wean the new baby.
Her lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa Elnour, a Muslim, has received death threats for defending her but has already lodged an appeal. If he does not succeed at the Appeal Court, he will take the case to Sudan’s Supreme Court.
Speaking from his office in a ramshackle building close to the River Nile, he said: 'Once this case became public there was only one way that this case was going to go.
'The clamour for a guilty verdict from the Sudanese press and from government figures intensified and they got what they wanted. There is a large section of the public here that want her to be hanged.
'But even if Meriam was freed she would never be able to live in Sudan again. It just wouldn’t be safe. 'There are many Muslims who are very angry with this situation and they say that if the court doesn’t kill her then they will when she is released.
'Muslim hardliners appear to hold sway with this case, although international support and condemnation of the case might help.
'In fact, the British Embassy here has been helpful – more so than the American Embassy.’
Mr Elnour said the case hinges around the testimony of two men who claim to be her brothers, and one woman who claims to be her mother.
In court they claimed that she had disappeared from the family home in a small village in the east of Sudan and then discovered her living in Khartoum, married to a Christian man.
But the lawyer said all three witnesses have proven to be liars because their evidence to the court has been highly contradictory.
He suggested that the trio are making up their story in an attempt to claim ownership of Meriam’s flourishing general store in a shopping mall on the outskirts of Khartoum.
Mr Elnour added: 'We can prove that Meriam’s mother died in 2012 and that the two others are definite fraudsters. But the court is not interested in our evidence.’
A petition calling for her release had last week reached more than 650,000.
'Abhorrent violation': Senators fight for Meriam
New Hampshire's senators are working to save Meriam from being executed, calling her treatment an 'abhorrent violation of human rights'.
New Hampshire's Senator Kelly Ayotte and fellow Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri have written to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to grant the 27-year-old Sudanese woman political asylum.
Rights: New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Roy Blunt have written to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to grant Meriam political asylum
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, (Democrat-New Hampshire) called the death sentence an 'abhorrent violation of fundamental freedoms and universal rights'.
The British government had expressed its anger to a senior Sudanese diplomat over the pregnant mother's sentence and urged him to pressure the government to overturn the ruling.