Meriam Ibrahim: Woman who was freed after apostasy death sentence still detained at airport ‘over forged travel documents’

Family's lawyer says they are expected to be held for 24 hours over 'criminal violation' with visa
  • @adamwithnall

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman whose death sentence for converting to Christianity was overturned on Monday, is now being questioned by police over the alleged use of forged travel documents.

The mother of two was released this week after what Sudan’s government described as unprecedented international pressure, and her American husband said they looked forward to starting a new life in the US.

But the diplomatic row over Ms Ibrahim’s case has only escalated after she was detained again at Khartoum airport yesterday.

In a statement issued on its Facebook page, Sudan’s security service said that passport police had “arrested” Mr Ibrahim after she presented “emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa”.

“The Sudanese authorities considered this a criminal violation”, it said.

Ms Ibrahim's lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said that she is expected to stay in police custody for 24 hours.

Speaking from Washington, a US State Department spokesperson said that it was “highly involved” in working with the family and the Sudanese government to resolve the matter, and that the latter had given it assurances regarding Ms Ibrahim’s safety.

Meriam Ibrahim with her husband Daniel Wani

The spokesperson said the US believed Ms Ibrahim and her family “have not been arrested”, but rather that they had been detained for several hours “for questioning over issues related to their travel”.

The Sudanese foreign ministry has summoned the US and South Sudanese ambassadors to discuss how Ms Ibrahim came to be issued with the travel documents, security officials said. Under Sudan's laws, forging a document is punishable by up to five years in prison.

It was not known where Ms Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani, their 18-month-old son Martin and baby daughter Maya – who was born in jail – were looking to fly, though reports suggested they were likely trying to get to the US via either Cairo or Juba in South Sudan.

In this file image from an undated video Meriam Ibrahim, sitting next to her 18-month-old son Martin, holds her newborn baby girl as an NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum

Monday’s court decision in Ms Ibrahim’s favour came after an Amnesty International campaign supported by more than one million people, and lobbying at the highest level from the US and UK.

It was hailed by David Cameron as a reminder of “how crucial freedom of religion is around the world”.

But it also led to words of caution from US Congressman Chris Smith, who chairs its global human rights subcommittee. He said the release was only a “first step”, adding: “The second step is that Ms Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane heading to the United States.”