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Meriam Ibrahim flees Sudan for new life in the US

01 August 2014


Starting over:  Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani are greeted by family and friends after arriving in Manchester, N.H.,  on Thursday

Starting over:  Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani are greeted by family and friends after arriving in Manchester, N.H...

MERIAM IBRAHIM has begun her new life in the United States, after finally escaping her native Sudan and fleeing to Italy last week. She flew into Philadelphia on Thursday evening, after a few days in Rome.

Having been arrested, charged, and convicted of apostasy, sentenced to death, released, detained again, and then holed up in the US embassy in the space of a few months, Mrs Ibrahim, aged 29, said that she was looking forward to a quieter life in New Hampshire.

She told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica: "With my family, I will start a new life. We are going to move to New Hampshire, where my brother-in-law Gabriel lives. He will help us. We'll all be together, like a proper family."

On her arrival in the US, the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, hailed her as a "world freedom fighter", compared her to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and gave her a miniature replica of the Liberty Bell.

When she touched down in Manchester, New Hampshire, around 40 relatives and supporters met her at the airport. Some were chanting "Long live America", the BBC reported.

After her unexpected flight to Italy on Thursday last week, more details have emerged of the negotiations behind the scenes which secured her freedom, after her travel documents were confiscated the last time she tried to leave Sudan, in June.

Mrs Ibrahim's lawyer, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, told The Daily Telegraph that the mother of two was not told where she was going, even after Italy had persuaded the Sudanese authorities to return her passport and let her leave.

"Nobody from the government knew until the plane had taken off - except the Minister for Foreign Affairs. And I expect he told the President," Mr Elshareef said. "Last week, a group made a threat to attack the US embassy, where they had been living; so we couldn't take any chances."

The Italian foreign ministry told the newspaper that they intervened to help Mrs Ibrahim because it was a "human-rights issue".

Meeting the Pope fulfilled a lifelong dream, Mrs Ibrahim said. Pope Francis thanked her for her "courageous witness to perseverance in the faith" at their private meeting, shortly after she arrived in Rome.

Later, according to La Repubblica, she said: "I've always had my faith - and my love for my husband, a gift from God. When I was asked to renounce my Christian faith, I knew what I was risking [in refusing to do so]. But I didn't want to renounce it. Thank you, Italy. Thanks to God, we are all well."

The family will settle in the town of Manchester, New Hampshire, where her brother-in-law already lives with his family. The town is home to a Christian Sudanese community and church.


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