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Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim safe in Italy

24 July 2014


Relief: Meriam Ibrahim disembarks with her children Maya, in her arms, and Martin, at Ciampino's military airport, on the outskirts of Rome, on Thursday. They were accompanied by the Italian deputy Foreign Minister, Lapo Pistelli 

Relief: Meriam Ibrahim disembarks with her children Maya, in her arms, and Martin, at Ciampino's military airport, on the outskirts ...

MERIAM IBRAHIM, the Sudanese Christian who was pardoned last month after being sentenced to death for apostasy, has finally left Sudan and flown to Italy.

The 27-year-old mother of two had been stranded at the United States embassy in the capital, Khartoum, for weeks, while legal wrangling with her relatives and the authorities continued. But, on Thursday, it was unexpectedly announced that she had taken a flight to Italy, accompanied by Italy's Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lapo Pistelli.

Despite being freed from her death sentence by the appeal court last month, Mrs Ibrahim was blocked from leaving the country with her husband, Daniel Wani, who has both US and South Sudanese citizenship ( News, 27 June). The authorities do not believe that her travel documents, issued by South Sudan, are genuine.

A Sudanese government official has now told Reuters, however, that the government had approved her departure for Italy in advance. There had previously been no indication that the Italian government had been involved, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Mrs Ibrahim and her family were met in Rome by the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who said: "Today is a day of celebration."

She then met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. A spokesman said that the pope thanked Mrs Ibrahim for her "courageous witness to perseverance in the faith". In return, she thanked him for his prayers while she had been in prison. 

Before Mrs Ibrahim left Sudan, her father,  who is Muslim, launched legal action to have her marriage annulled. Mrs Ibrahim has maintained that she was raised a Christian, after her father abandoned the family, but her father's lawsuit denies this, and claims that she is a Muslim.

The law in Sudan prohibits Muslims from marrying Christians; so, if the courts find in favour of Mrs Ibrahim's father, her marriage to Mr Wani could be declared illegitimate. An earlier lawsuit by Mrs Ibrahim's father, which has now been dropped, without explanation, attempted to formally establish her as his daughter.

Mrs Ibrahim had been staying at the US embassy with her two children and husband ever since her release from police custody, after her arrest at Khartoum airport by 40 agents from the Sudanese security service on 24 June. Mr Wani is also an American citizen, and the family had hoped to emigrate permanently to the US, although it not clear what her intentions are now.


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