KHARTOUM – The Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence for apostasy was overturned but who was detained again this week is now at the U.S. Embassy for her own “safety,” her lawyer said Friday.
Lawyer ElShareef Ali Mohammed said that 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim left a Khartoum police station the night before where she had been detained along with her two children and husband on charges of forging travel documents. He added that she headed to the embassy for fear of “assault” either by relatives or angry residents.
A U.S. official confirmed Ibrahim is at the embassy and said diplomats are trying to arrange her departure from Sudan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.
Her husband Daniel Wani, who holds American citizenship and is also a citizen of South Sudan, said authorities accused his wife of forging the documents as a pretext to justify her detention “without an arrest warrant.”
“Does it make sense that we try to fly all the way to the United States with forged passports?” he said over the phone. He declined to elaborate details of the case. Wani was granted U.S. citizenship when he fled to the United States as a child to escape the civil war, but he later returned.
The Tuesday arrest took place at Khartoum Airport, where the family was departing the country, a day after Sudan’s Cassation Court overturned a death sentence against Ibrahim and ordered her release.
Ibrahim was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. A daughter of a Muslim father, Ibrahim was raised by her Christian mother. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father’s religion.
Sudan’s penal code forbids Muslims from converting to other religions, a crime punishable by death. The court in the capital, Khartoum, had also ordered Ibrahim be given 100 lashes for having sexual relations with her husband.
Lawyer Mohammed said the family is in the embassy for fear of attack.
“In any other place, she would be subject to retaliatory assaults,” he said. He added that the South Sudan Embassy testified in written document that it had granted Ibrahim a passport and that “it is authentic, not forged.”