A Sudanese Christian woman freed from death row Monday after an appeals court in Khartoum overturned convictions for apostasy and adultery has again been detained by Sudanese authorities, who accuse her of forging travel documents.
Meriam Ibrahim, 27, had been seized along with her family Tuesday as she tried to leave Sudan, on her way to the U.S. She was traveling on a temporary South Sudan passport with a U.S. visa and was accompanied by an American diplomat.
But Sudanese authorities said that as a Sudanese citizen, Ibrahim couldn't travel on South Sudan papers. Attempting to leave the country with false papers was a criminal offense, authorities said.
The American and South Sudanese ambassadors were summoned Wednesday by Sudanese authorities over their role in the alleged offense. Ibrahim was being held at a police station with her husband, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen of South Sudanese origin, and her children, Martin and infant daughter Maya, born in prison.
The penalty for travelling on a forged document is up to five years jail, her lawyers told Reuters.
Ibrahim had earlier been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to hang, accused of renouncing Islam to wed Wani. She insisted she was raised a Christian and was never a Muslim, refusing to renounce her Christian faith to the court. She was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes but both charges were overturned by Khartoum’s appeals court Monday and she was freed from prison.
When she was detained at Khartoum’s airport Tuesday, her legal team protested that she had valid travel documents and the right to leave the country. But while Sudanese authorities said she was not formally arrested, she was taken to a police station in Khartoum for further questioning.
She was detained only over the travel documents, not the apostasy matter, Sudanese authorities said, adding that she would be protected from harm.
“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa,” according to Sudan’s national intelligence agency Wednesday, Reuters reported. The agency was using Ibrahim’s Muslim name.
“The Sudanese authorities considered [her action] a criminal violation and the Foreign Ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors, the agency said on its Facebook page.
Her lawyers Monday had expressed fears for her safety after threats were made to kill her, including by a member of her family. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday Sudanese authorities had assured the U.S. of her safety.
Wani has told journalists the family planned to fly to the U.S., where he is a citizen.
Ibrahim recently gave birth to her second child in Omdurman’s women’s prison after being jailed with her first child, Martin.
Her father, a Muslim, abandoned the family when Ibrahim was 6 years old and played no role in her upbringing, she told the court during her trial, explaining that Her Ethiopian Christian mother raised her a Christian. She said she was never a Muslim, but the court rejected her testimony.
The conviction and sentences were condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Western governments including the United States and Britain, with calls for Sudan to guarantee freedom of religion.
In Sudan, abandoning Islam to convert to Christianity or another faith is an offense punishable by death under the country’s 1991 penal code.
The lower court had ruled that she would be allowed to care for her second baby for two years, and then be hanged.
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