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Sudanese Woman With New Hampshire Ties Likely To Avoid Execution, Expert Says

Turkish Graves 2, Khartoum
Flickr Creative Commons

International attention is growing in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce Christianity.

New Hampshire has been paying particularly close attention as well – as Ibrahim is married to a Manchester man, Daniel Wani, who has been in Sudan the past year awaiting her trial.

Ibrahim gave birth in prison this week, but she still faces 100 lashes and the death penalty after bring convicted of apostasy and adultery.

Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College who has studied and written about Sudan extensively over the past fifteen years. He says cases like Ibrahim's come up from time to time in Sudan and similar countries. But, he says, "usually human rights organizations rally to the cause and bring sufficient notoriety to a given case that it is dismissed under various pretenses by the Sudanese judicial system.

"And I expect that will be the case on this occasion - the regime in Khartoum doesn't want to be seen as bowing to pressure from human rights groups. But they also know to carry out the sentence at this point would be immensely counterproductive for them in their international relations."

Reeves says the Ibrahim case is primarily about a desire within Sudan's political hierarchy "to appear more strongly Islamist than rivals. This is showing your Islamist credentials if you're willing to go forward with this barbaric punishment." Under the Sudanese interpretation of Sharia law, Reeves says, Ibrahim would be stoned to death - "you don't want, apparently, the stones to be too small, because it will take too long to kill the person - inevitably, a woman. You don't want the stones too large because she'll die too quickly.

"It's a perverse kind of thinking to exact as much pain in the act of execution."

The regime headed by Omar Bashir has said that now that the South Sudan, the non-Muslim part of the country, is its own state, his government will more rigidly enforce such laws. Reeves says he worried future cases may not garner sufficient international attention. The Sudanese government he says, has confiscating land controlled by churches and harassing Christians ministers and they're congregations. "They've been making life as difficult as possible for Christians in the north," he says. "And this was true even before secession in July 2011.

"This is a regime that really does despise non-Arabs and non-Muslims."

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