KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNS) — Meriam Ibrahim, a Catholic woman originally sentenced to death for marrying a Christian, was released from prison June 23, but apprehended again the next day at the Khartoum airport with her husband, who is a U.S. citizen, and their two children, her lawyer said.
Antonella Napoli, head of an Italian aid organization, tweeted a photograph of her telephone text message exchange with the lawyer who said the couple was arrested at the airport by the Sudanese secret service early June 24. The family had been planning to go to the United States.
CNN reported it received the same information from Ibrahim’s lawyer and that its reporters spoke briefly with her husband, Daniel Bicensio Wani, who said he and his family were being held at the national security office.
Ibrahim had given birth to a daughter in late May, and her 1-year-old son also had been in prison with her.
She joined the Catholic Church shortly before she married Wani in December 2011, said a mid-June statement signed by Father Mussa Timothy Kacho, episcopal vicar for the Archdiocese of Khartoum, which had urged the courts to review her case. In mid-May, she was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death by hanging. Sudan’s penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions, which is punishable by death.
Wani, who lives in New Hampshire, was refused custody of their son because, under Sudanese law, a Christian man cannot raise a Muslim child.
In Washington, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Africa and global human rights subcommittee, had called Ibrahim’s release “a huge first step,” and added, “but the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane and heading to the United States.”
Earlier, the Khartoum Archdiocese said Ibrahim’s Sudanese Muslim father abandoned the family when she was 5, and she was raised according to her mother’s faith, Orthodox Christian.
“She has never been a Muslim in her life,” the archdiocese said.
“There are many people trying to persuade Meriam to renounce Christianity in order to be freed, but she is refusing. Some people are pleading with her husband to convince her to abandon Christian faith in order to save her life, but to no avail,” the archdiocese said.
In a May joint statement, Sudan’s churches said the charges against Ibrahim were false and appealed to the Sudanese government to free her from prison.