May 30th, 2014

CNN’s Nima Elbagir talks to husband of Sudanese woman sentenced to death for Christian beliefs

In his first sit-down interview, Daniel Wani, the American husband of the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, tells CNN’s Nima Elbagir (@NimaCNN) he will stand by his wife, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, until the end.

“I’m standing by her to end. Whatever she wants, I’ll stand by her,” Wani said.

Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl earlier this week at a Khartoum prison, where’s she’s detained with her 20-month-old son.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So much has been said about what exactly happened. Can you tell us in your words, what happened to Meriam, to your wife?

DANIEL WANI, HUSBAND OF DETAINED SUDANESE WOMAN MERIAM YEHYA IBRAHIM: Meriam was sentenced under article 126, which is apostasy. The origins of the case was that there were these people who filed charges claiming that she was their sister and filed a police report saying that she had disappeared. We were both jailed – I was the second defendant in the case. The police originally called for the case to be dismissed but these people went back and added another charge under article 146 which is adultery, by saying she was their sister and a Muslim. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man, therefore we were brought before the court. The court was originally moving on this in a comical manner. It was only after the prosecution case rested and the defense case began – and the judge was a “public order” court judge – the judge added article 126- which relates to apostasy. From that day she’s been in jail. From the 17th of January.

NE: A lot has been said about whether she is allowed to convert, whether she was Muslim, she should have converted but for you its very simple isn’t it? The reality is that she is a Christian, she is the mother of your children and as far as you’re concerned you’re married, you have two children and you just want to get on with your life.

DW: An “illegitimate” marriage does not result in legally recognized offspring, which means that my son – Martin – and the new baby, are no longer mine. There is pressure on her from Muslim religious leaders that she should return to the faith. She said “How can I return when I never was a Muslim?” Yes, my father was a Muslim but I was brought up by my mother. So this issue that she will “return”.. I doubt it. I know my wife. She’s committed. Even last week, they brought in Sheikhs and she told them; “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change my mind”.

NE: These men who claim to be her brothers, had you met them before?

DW: No, I have never met them before?

NE: When you met her, she told you she was a Christian?

DW: (In English) she’s a Christian. (In Arabic) she’s a Christian.

NE:  And she was a practicing Christian?

DW: (In English) Yes. (In Arabic) she would practice, she would go – perhaps she was even more committed than me.

NE: And your children were baptized?

DW: (In English) Martin yeah. (Back to Arabic) Martin was.

NE: And your new daughter?

DW: (In English) Not yet. (Back to Arabic) (says with smile) She’s only a day old.

NE: What do you want her to do?

DW: I’m standing by her to end. Whatever she wants. I’ll stand by her.

NE: What kind of conditions is she living in at the moment in the women’s prison?

DW: (In English) She’s in bad mood. She’s frustrated. (Back to Arabic) I haven’t seen her for three days. My last visit was Monday and she gave birth on Tuesday morning.

NE: What happens next? What’s your next move?

DW: At this stage we’ve put forward an appeal to the appeals court and we hope that this will be looked in to and the case will be dismissed and the file will be closed.

NE: Are you hopeful?

DW: I’m hoping that given the way people have come together around the world – which I want to thank them for. All the rights groups, all the broadcasters. The media has really supported us. To the extent that my phone now doesn’t stop! The calls are overwhelming. I want to thank everyone for this stand. It’s looking like it had an effect. Perhaps it will result in the judgment being overturned.

NE: You are an American citizen?

DW: I am an American, yes.

NE: What kind of support have you received from the US government?

DW: Sadly, it’s not the US government, when the problem began the US consul here had a very negative position on this. She was very high handed. (In English) she’s very, very rude. She said – and I quote – (in English) ” I don’t have time.” I said (in English) “listen”. (Back to Arabic) Because this case is a difficult.