Radio Dabanga (Hilversum)

24 July 2014

Sudan: Condemned Christian Woman and Her Family Arrive At Rome

Photo: Lapo Pistelli/Facebook
Italian vice-minister of foreign affairs Lapo Pistelli has posted a photo of himself with Meriam Ibrahim and her children. Ibrahim had been arrested for converting from Islam before marrying her husband. The photo was taken a few minutes before they arrived in Rome from Sudan.

Khartoum / Rome — Maryam Ibrahim, whose case caught worldwide attention when she was condemned to death for apostasy, flew to Italy this morning.

Ibrahim and her family arrived at Rome's Ciampino airport at 9.30am on an aircraft provided by the Italian government, the Italian The Local reported. On the flight, they were accompanied by Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who has been following the case closely.

The family was welcomed at the airport by Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and Foreign Affairs Minister Federica Mogherini, as guests of the Italian government.

Mohaned Mostafa, Maryam's lawyer, said he had not been told of her departure. "I don't know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Maryam and which prevents her from traveling from Sudan has not been cancelled," Mostafa told Reuters.

Eight months pregnant, Ibrahim was sentenced to death on 11 May by a Khartoum court for not renouncing her Christian faith. She was forced to give birth in chains in the Federal Women's Prison in Omdurman, the sister city of Khartoum.

Her Muslim family had filed a lawsuit against her for leaving Islam, considered apostasy in Islamic law, after she married Daniel Wani, a Christian. Because marriages between a Christian man and a Muslim woman are prohibited in Islam, the marriage was not recognised, which caused Ibrahim to also be charged with adultery.

Ibrahim was raised by her Christian mother, after her Muslim father left the family when she was six years old. Under the Islamic law, children take the faith of their father. Ibrahim said she never practiced Islam.

She was freed from prison after an appeals court found the lower court's death penalty sentence to be unfounded. Ibrahim, and her husband, who has both South Sudanese and US nationality, went with their children to Khartoum airport to leave the country for the USA. They were arrested at the airport, accused of using forged travel documents. They had received the documents from the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum, while Ibrahim, a Sudanese national, was supposed to obtain them from the Sudanese authorities.

Congressional hearing

Ibrahim's case was the topic of a US congressional hearing on Wednesday. Members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global human rights discussed the human rights abuse perpetrated on Ibrahim.

Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House, oversaw the hearing, entitled "The Troubling Case of Meriam Ibrahim". The vice-chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Zuhdi Jasser, led off testimony on the plight of Ibrahim.

The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives, also known as the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has jurisdiction over bills and investigations related to US foreign affairs. The website of the House offers a webcam of the hearing.

EU resolution

On 17 July, the EU parliament passed a resolution on the case, condemning Ibrahim's "degrading and inhumane" treatment, and calling for urgent legal reforms that protect basic human rights, and guard against discrimination on religious grounds or gender.

The resolution followed a meeting between EU parliamentarians and a Sudanese delegation of opposition forces in Strasbourg. The resolution also expresses EU's support for an inclusive negotiated solution to the conflicts in Sudan, and backs the efforts of civil society and opposition parties in promoting the peace process.

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