EXCLUSIVE: First picture of the baby born in a Sudan jail to mother sentenced to HANG for marrying a Christian
By Arthur Martin
Proud: Father Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen, from Manchester, New Hampshire, holds Maya for the first time after being allowed to visit to his wife, Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for marrying him, a Christian
Sleeping peacefully in the arms of her father, this is precious baby Maya born in jail to the woman facing execution in Sudan for marrying a Christian U.S. citizen.
Our exclusive picture shows father Daniel Wani holding his daughter for the first time.
Daniel's wife Meriam Ibrahim gave birth to Maya five days early in the hospital wing at Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in North Khartoum yesterday.
Cruel: Martin, above, is pictured with his father on the heartbreaking visit. His family claim he is American because his father has been granted U.S. citizenship. He is being held with Meriam because the authorities claim he is a Muslim and will not release him into the care of a Christian
Meriam has spent the past four months shackled to the floor in a disease-ridden jail after being sentenced to death by hanging earlier this month for converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian man.
Her lawyer Mohaned Mustafa Elnour said the couple are 'happy and proud' of their new arrival and that it has brought a momentary ray of light to an otherwise bleak and desperate situation.
Mr Elnour: 'This is a special moment for them. Daniel is delighted that he is able to see his new daughter so soon.
'The family are taking some time to enjoy the birth before they return to fighting the injustice of Meriam's sentence.'
Daniel, a 27-year-old biochemist who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, also got the chance to hold his 20-month-old son Martin, who is being held in the barbaric prison with his mother.
The photo is especially poignant as Meriam will never see her beautiful daughter grow up. She is set to hang sometime in the next two years as the authorities said she will be executed when she has finished weaning Maya.
And before the birth, Meriam made the defiant claim that she would rather die than give up her faith.
In a heart-wrenching conversation with her husband during a rare prison visit, Meriam told him: 'If they want to execute me then they should go ahead and do it because I’m not going to change my faith.’
Loving: Meriam and Daniel married in Sudan. Daniel left New Hampshire to visit her in Sudan and arrange for his wife and son to join him in America when she was arrested
An Islamic Sharia judge said she could be spared the death penalty if she publicly renounced her faith and becomes a Muslim once more.
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.
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 revealed his wife’s defiant stance during an exclusive interview with MailOnline at his modest home in the Sudanese capital, 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.
The authorities will not release Martin into the care of his father because they claim he is a Muslim too.
Bleak: The Omdurman Women's Jail in Khartoum, Sudan where Meriam Ibrahim is being held. It is overcrowded and riven with disease
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 spends much of her time shackled to the floor, is not receiving much nutrition in her food 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.
Daniel told MailOnline: '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.
Most who were at the wedding ceremony could vouch for the pair being committed Christians, defence lawyers say.
Rotten care: Martin is given a drink by prison guards. Daniel is desperate to be allowed to take him home and is fiercely critical of the U.S. Embassy for failing to help them and Martin in particular, who is American
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.’
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.
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
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 661,000.
- Justice for Meriam
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2642088/Joy-amid-nightmare-Exclusive-picture-baby-Maya-born-barbaric-Sudanese-jail-mother-sentenced-hang-marrying-Christian-U-S-citizen.html#ixzz33EUa7L5W
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