June 24, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Christian woman who was spared the death penalty after her conviction for apostasy was quashed, has safely arrived in Rome.
Meriam Ibrahim was accompanied by her family and Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who undertook a secret visit to Khartoum where he negotiated her departure with the Sudanese government.
- Meriam Ibrahim, pictured with her children and Italy’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Lapo Pistelli, on an Italian government plane en route to Rome on 24 July 2014 (Photo from Facebook)
Ibrahim was sentenced to death by hanging in May after refusing to recant her faith and return to Islam, but was later released after what the government described as “unprecedented” international pressure.
An appeals court subsequently found Ibrahim not guilty on the charges of apostasy and adultery, overturning the lower tribunal’s original verdict.
However, one day after her release from prison, the 27-year-old mother-of-two was detained along with her family by officers from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) at Khartoum airport while trying to leave for the US on South Sudanese-issued travel documents.
Since then she has been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum along with her husband, Daniel Wani, and two young children.
No details have been provided on the negotiations that led up to Ibrahim’s departure from Khartoum, and there has been no immediate comment from the Sudanese government.
However, the Italian deputy foreign minister told reporters he had travelled to Sudan two weeks ago to mediate on behalf of Ibrahim, who he met for the first time at the US embassy.
Pistelli returned to Khartoum on Wednesday evening (local time) in an Italian government airplane and collected Ibrahim and her family. They arrived at Rome’s Ciampino’s airport, on the outskirts of the Italian capital, early Thursday morning.
- Meriam Ibrahim (R) holds her baby daughter Maya, accompanied by Italian deputy foreign minister Lapo Pistelli, who is holding her son Martin, followed by Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi (second from right) and his wife Agnese Landini (second from left) after landing at Rome’s Ciampino airport on 24 July 2014 (Photo: AP/Riccardo De Luca)
Ibrahim and her family were received by the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his wife, as well as foreign minister Federica Mogherini.
“This is a day of celebration,” said Renzi, expressing his happiness after intensive diplomatic efforts by his government and the Vatican to secure Ibrahim’s arrival in the country.
She was also received by the Pope Francis in his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican following her arrival.
Meanwhile, Pistelli thanked the Sudanese government for accepting mediation efforts and allowing Ibrahim’s departure.
“This gesture by Sudan is testimony to the friendship between our country and Italy’s choice to be a protagonist in this event,” said Pistelli.
Ibrahim is expected to travel to the United States with her family in coming days.
- In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Sudan’s Meriam Ibrahim, holding her daughter Maya in her arms, is shown meeting Pope Francis in Rome on 24 July 2014
Ibrahim’s future had been shrouded in uncertainty up until her surprise departure from Sudan, with her family filing a lawsuit earlier this month to annul her marriage to her husband, but the case was later dropped without explanation.
The Ibrahim case has helped shine a critical spotlight on Sudan’s judicial system, which came under unprecedented pressure to repeal the sentence.
The court’s sentence, handed down while Ibrahim was eight months pregnant with her daughter, drew widespread international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it “abhorrent”. The US state department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.
On July 17, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the case, describing Ibrahim’s treatment as “degrading and inhumane”.
UK prime minister David Cameron told The Times that he was “absolutely appalled” when he learnt of Ibrahim’s death sentence, calling for the “barbaric” verdict to be overturned.
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