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Meriam Ibrahim, whose death sentence was overturned after international outcry, has arrived with her husband and two children in Italy.
Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian Sudanese woman spared a death sentence for apostasy after an international outcry, has arrived in Italy.
Italian television showed the 27-year-old leaving an aircraft at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her husband, two children and Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli.
Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to death for apostasy in May, sparking an international campaign to lift the death sentence. More than a million people backed an Amnesty International campaign to get her released, with British prime minister David Cameron and US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson among world leaders who clamoured for her release.
While on death row, Ibrahim, a graduate of Sudan University’s school of medicine, gave birth in shackles in May. It was a difficult birth as her legs were in chains and Ibrahim is worried that her daughter may need support to walk.
Because of the baby, Ibrahim was told that her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse.
Under the Sudanese penal code, Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men.
During her trial in Khartoum, she told the court that she had been brought up as a Christian, and refused to renounce her faith. She and Daniel Wani – an American citizen – married in 2011. The court ruled that the union was invalid and that Ibrahim was guilty of adultery.
Her convictions, sentences and detention in Omdurman women’s prison while heavily pregnant and with her toddler son incarcerated alongside her caused international outrage.
After an appeal court overturned the death sentence, Ibrahim, Wani, and their two children tried to leave the country in June, but were turned back. The Sudanese government accused her of trying to leave the country with false papers, preventing her departure for the US.
Her lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said he had not been told of her departure on Thursday.
“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Meriam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” Mostafa told Reuters.
Ibrahim and her family had been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum. – © Guardian News & Media 2014
Sudan ‘apostasy’ woman Meriam Yahia Ibrahim meets Pope
A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has met the Pope.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.
There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.
Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.
She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.
Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”
Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.
“The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.
The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show “closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,” he added.
The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy’s involvement in the case.
Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.
“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.
A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.
Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.
“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.
“But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her,” he added.
Mrs Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.
Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy – renouncing one’s faith.
Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.
She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.
These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.
Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim. bbc