The government of Sudan is expected to no longer hand down a death sentence for those found guilty of apostasy, a crime that is highly frowned upon in the Islamic world. The government did say that the law also must go further and also decriminalise blasphemy, which still carries a severe penalty for anyone convicted.
Sudan is one of the few countries in the world where people have been executed for leaving the Islamic faith.
Mohamed Hassan Arabi, a member of the Sudanese transitional government, said that lawmakers would remove the death penalty for apostasy by repealing Article 126 of the Penal Code, but will not abolish punishment for abandoning Islam. Under the new rules, people will not face the death penalty but will instead, along with the charge of blasphemy, be subjected to punishments that could include six months in prison, flogging, a fine, or a combination of all three.
“It is a huge step forward that Sudan is planning to abolish the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy. We hope this move will serve as a positive inspiration to the thirteen other countries around the world that similarly have a death sentence for the same crimes,” Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said.
In May 2014, a pregnant Christian woman, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, was sentenced to death for apostasy after refusing to reject her Christian faith. The 27-year-old, whose father was a Muslim but raised as a Christian from the age of six, was sentenced in June 2014 by the Sudan Court of Appeal.
Afghanistan, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia all have the death penalty for apostasy, but are not known to have carried out a sentence for several years.