27 June 2014

Sudan: Apostasy Woman Released On Bail, Granted Refuge At the U.S Embassy

Khartoum — Sudanese authorities released a Christian woman formerly accused of apostasy on bail on Thursday evening but informed her that she is barred from leaving the country.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death last month for renouncing Islam, but was released on Monday after what the government said was "unprecedented" international pressure. An appeals court found Ibrahim not guilty on two charges of apostasy and adultery and overturned the lower tribunal's verdict.

However, the 27-year-old was taken into custody by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers at Khartoum airport on Tuesday along with her husband and two children, for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum

Mrs. Ibrahim is now reportedly facing forgery charges along with police complaints filed by her alleged siblings. It is not clear what the next legal steps would entail.

She was seen late Thursday leaving a police station in Khartoum on a vehicle with diplomatic plates holding the baby she delivered while in prison.

Ibrahim's attorney, Mohannad Mustafa told Agence France Presse (AFP) early Friday that they went to the U.S. embassy.

"She and her husband think this is a safe place for them," he said.

Daniel Wani, Ibrahim's husband also said his wife and two children were doing well at the US embassy on the outskirts of the Sudanese capital.

He said they had sought the embassy's protection because of death threats against his wife.

The US state department spokesperson Marie Harf refused to confirm Ibrahim's presence at the embassy.

"The family has been taken to a safe location. For their safety, we won't be discussing the family's location from here. We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible. And again, we believe that she and her children have all the necessary travel documents to allow them to enter the United States," Harf said.

Government officials told Sudan Tribune that Ibrahim have the right to leave the country but after issuing a Sudanese passport and obtaining a US visa.

Sudan's foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned ambassadors of the United States and South Sudan over helping Ibrahim to "illegally" depart the country.

The United States on Tuesday disputed reports that Ibrahim has been rearrested and said that Khartoum assured her that she will be allowed safe passage.

"The state department has been informed by the Sudanese government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested," US state department deputy speaker Marie Harf told reporters.

"The government has assured us of their safety. The embassy has been and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government. We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan, and of course, we'll provide more information as we get it," she added.

The US later acknowledged that Ibrahim had been detained over charges related to her travel documents. Harf said their diplomat in Khartoum "reaffirmed our concern that the family should be allowed to depart swiftly from Sudan; that we would work on that with them".

Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) page on Facebook said that Ibrahim was arrested by airport immigration officers after presenting temporary travel documents issued by South Sudan embassy in Khartoum and that had a US visa stamp on it.

"This was viewed by Sudanese authorities as a criminal violation and a disregard upon which the foreign ministry summoned the US and South Sudanese envoys," the NISS said in a post this week.

"On the other hand a senior official from the Sudanese foreign ministry explained that temporary travel documents are granted by states to their citizens after ensuring that the citizen has no criminal or security problem and has the seal of the interior [ministry] in the domicile of the citizen.

"It is also valid only for one use, and the person would be travelling to his homeland only, but in the case of citizen Abrar [Ibrahim's Muslim name] the document was issued by the embassy of the state of South Sudan though she is not southerner and heading to America and it is not her homeland," the post added.

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