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,
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
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
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
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.