Meriam Ibrahim Released from Custody after Attempt to Leave Sudan

Elements within government attempting to charge mother of two with ‘fraudulent’ travel documents.

Meriam with family after her release on June 23. (Shareif Ali Shareif)

Meriam with family after her release on June 23. (Shareif Ali Shareif)

(Morning Star News) – The Sudanese mother of two detained at a Khartoum airport on Tuesday (June 24) after her death sentence for apostasy was overturned on Monday was released today, and foreign governments are pressuring Sudan to permit her to travel outside the country, according to various sources.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim reportedly left a Khartoum police station with her husband, dual U.S.-South Sudanese citizen Daniel Wani, her newborn daughter and toddler son, but she could face charges of forging travel documents, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Her attorneys deny that her travel documents were forged or fraudulent.

Ibrahim was reportedly released on bail.

At the U.S. State Department’s daily press briefing, Marie Harf said Ibrahim has all travel documents necessary to enter the United States but needs exit permission from Sudan.

“We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible,” Harf told reporters. “And from our perspective, Meriam has all of the documents she needs to travel to and enter the United States. It’s up to the Government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country. As I said, we’re working with them on that right now.”

Ibrahim and her family face dangers from relatives and other Muslims who have vowed to kill her for leaving Islam, though she says she was raised as a Christian and never practiced Islam. Asked if she was hopeful that Ibrahim and her family could leave the country today, Harf said she did not want to make predictions.

“We’re hopeful that she’ll be able to get out soon,” she said.

Harf declined to comment on the nature or propriety of Ibrahim’s travel papers.

A top Sudanese official, Abdullahi Alzareg of Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the BBC that Ibrahim was using “emergency South Sudanese papers” even though she is a citizen of Sudan, along with a U.S. visa. A South Sudanese official has reportedly vouched for the legitimacy of the documents. Alzareg said Ibrahim would need to get a passport and exit visa in order to leave the country.

A spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., Seif Yasin, told that Ibrahim’s travel papers were “fraudulent” and that she could leave Sudan “whenever the legal procedure comes to an end.”

“It is regrettable and disturbing that some elements attempted to bring Meriam to the U.S. by issuing her an entry visa on a fraudulent traveling document obtained from a foreign country (for a woman the whole world knows … is [a] Sudanese national ),” Yasin said in a statement. “That is inexcusable and unnecessary violations for all laws and regulations, including U.S. ones. The same legal system that protects her right and secures her freedom is capable of guaranteeing her right to leave the country whenever the legal procedure comes to an end.”

While the U.S. State Department views her denial to travel as temporary, Yasin’s statement seems to indicate that Sudan regards what may have been merely the wrong kind of document as “fraudulent.” Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), meantime, is also portraying what appeared to be a hastily planned attempt to leave the country – with the aid of attorneys and U.S. officials – into a criminal matter.

“The airport passport police arrested Abrar [her Muslim name] after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese Embassy and carrying an American visa,” says a post on the NISS website. “The Sudanese authorities considered [the action] a criminal violation, and the Foreign Ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors.”

More than 40 NISS agents confronted Ibrahim and her family, accompanied by the U.S. vice-consul and a member of her legal team, at the airport on Tuesday (June 24). Muslims claiming to be Ibrahim’s relatives initially accused her of leaving Islam, and a man claiming to be her brother told a Sudanese newspaper that he tipped off police about her departure.

Experts suspected elements within NISS objected to her release and that there was disagreement within the government about her case.

Ibrahim was released from prison in Sudan on Monday (June 23), less than two months after Morning Star News broke the story of false charges of apostasy against her that set off a firestorm of international protests.

Ibrahim, who gave birth to her daughter, Maya, in prison on May 27, had received a sentence of death by hanging for allegedly leaving Islam after a Muslim claiming to be a relative accused her of  marrying a Christian man – the crime of “adultery” under Islamic law for which she was also sentenced to 100 lashes.

Sudan’s state news agency reported that the country’s Court of Cassation on Monday (June 23) canceled the death sentence against Ibrahim, who has been in prison with her son since February, after defense lawyers presented their case. Witnesses for the defense had been prohibited from testifying during the trial.

Human rights advocates said Sudan must ensure protection for Ibrahim and her family, as Islamists clamored for her death throughout the trial. Ibrahim has maintained that her Sudanese father was Muslim but disappeared when she was 6, and that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Having never been a Muslim, she could not be guilty of apostasy, she testified.

A woman claiming to be Ibrahim’s mother and a man who claimed to be her brother attended court hearings, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).

“However, Meriam did not recognize either of them, and they contradicted each other concerning Meriam’s father and could not answer simple questions relating to Meriam’s upbringing, leaving their claims and statements open to question,” according to MEC.

International media, Western embassies and human rights groups urged her release when Ibrahim’s death sentence was confirmed after she refused to recant her faith on May 15.

Christian Solidarity Wordwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a press statement that the advocacy organization welcomed the decision to release Ibrahim on bail but continued to be deeply concerned for her welfare.

“Mrs. Ibrahim and Mr. Wani’s extended detention (despite the provision of credible evidence by relevant officials from the South Sudanese embassy that negates every allegation leveled against them), violates Sudan’s criminal procedures as well as article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory,” Thomas said.


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