Sudan activist arrested 'after attempt to change religion'

Sudan activist arrested 'after attempt to change religion'
2 min read
11 May, 2017
Sudanese police have arrested a social media activist on charges of apostasy, which can carry the death penalty, after he attempted to have his religion changed on official documents.
Rights groups have long called for the Sudanese government to abolish laws on apostasy [Facebook]

Sudanese police arrested a social media activist on charges of apostasy, which can carry the death penalty, after he attempted to have his religion changed on official documents, local media reported.

Police detained Mohammad Salih, popularly known by the nickname Baron, in the country's second city of Omdurman on Monday, for requesting the religion section of his national identification card be changed from Islam to "non-religious".

"Salih is still being investigated at al-Qadisiyah police station and his case is expected to be transferred to court on Sunday," Loay Harun, a campaigner for Salih, told The New Arab.

"He has had limited access to meetings with his lawyer, who will argue that the constitution allows the freedom of choice of religion despite apostasy laws", Harun said.

In his last Facebook post before the arrest, the 23-year-old secular activist hinted at his future move.

"I have decided to directly and indirectly confront authorities so I can have my prevailing questions answered. Freedoms are indivisible... above all religious and ideological freedom," he said on his account before it was deleted after his arrest.

The crime of apostasy carries the death penalty in Sudan, under Article 126 of the country's criminal code, which adheres to Islamic Sharia law.

In 2014, a court in Khartoum sentenced a pregnant 27-year-old, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery.

She had initially been charged with adultery for marrying a non-Muslim from South Sudan but the court later added the apostasy charge after she announced she was a Christian.

Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, who abandoned her Christian mother, leaving her to be raised in her mother's faith. Following intense international pressure, she was released after months in prison.

Last month, a Sudanese female journalist and critic of government policies had a case filed against her on charges of apostasy.

Shamael al-Nour became a target of a radical Islamists and a section of Sudan's hardline media for criticising government public health policies.

Rights groups have long called for the Sudanese government to abolish its laws on apostasy and end its restrictions on religious freedoms, particularly those targeting Christians.