HOPES were raised last night that a woman sentenced to death in Sudan after marrying a Christian would be released within days.
A senior Khartoum official reportedly said Meriam Ibrahim would be freed following worldwide protests about her treatment.
News of her possible release followed condemnation by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who urged the Sudanese government to lift the “barbaric” death sentence on the 27-year-old.
Ibrahim, who gave birth to a daughter this week while shackled in her cell, was raised a Christian by her mother and has refused to renounce the faith. However, a court ruled earlier this month that she is Muslim because that was her father’s faith.
Her Christian marriage was annulled and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for renouncing Islam.
Sex outside a “lawful relationship” is regarded as adultery under Sudanese law.
Cameron had urged the Sudanese government to lift the “barbaric” death sentence.
The prime minister, who joined Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Tony Blair in condemning the treatment of Ibrahim, said he was “absolutely appalled” when he heard about her plight.
“The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today’s world,” he said yesterday. “Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right.
He urged the government of Sudan to provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of and urgently seeking clarification from the Sudanese authorities of reports that Meriam Ibrahim, the mother facing the death penalty in Sudan, is to be freed.
“We have been strongly urging the Government of the Republic of Sudan to do all it can to overturn its decision to sentence her to death.”
The case has prompted questions over whether the UK should continue giving aid to countries which do not respect human rights.
Conservative North Somerset MP Liam Fox, the former defence secretary and shadow foreign secretary, said the government needed to think again about aid.
“Religious tolerance is something that the UK should be promoting at every opportunity,” he said. “We need to ask whether it is acceptable to be giving taxpayers’ money in aid to states which allow treatment such as that handedout to Meriam Ibrahim.”
Ibrahim’s husband Daniel Wani said his son has become sullen and withdrawn since being incarcerated with his mother.
He added that his wife was under pressure to convert her religion so she can leave prison but said she was “committed” to her right to religious freedom.
Labour leader Miliband said: “The conviction and incarceration of Meriam Ibrahim is utterly appalling and an abhorrent abuse of her human rights. Nobody should be persecuted because of the religion they practice or the person they fall in love with.
“I cannot imagine the suffering – both physical and emotional – that Meriam, her husband and their two young children must be going through. The Labour Party has already asked British ministers to apply pressure to the Sudanese government to ensure her release. The government will have our full support in their attempts to resolve this matter.”