Thursday, July 24, 2014

SUDAN: MERIAM IBRAHIM ARRIVES IN ITALY

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Italy after criminal charges against her and her husband were dismissed and they were permitted to leave the Sudan.

On 24 June, Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani were detained as they attempted to leave Sudan, and were later charged with forgery and provision of false information under article 123 and 97 of the 1991 Criminal Code, due to alleged irregularities with her travel documents. Sources have informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that these charges have now been dismissed, clearing the way for the family to leave the country. They left at approximately 4am Sudanese time on an Italian government plane, accompanied by the Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Meriam and her children travelled on passports issued by Sudanese authorities and CSW was informed the family will eventually travel to the US.

On 23 June, the Appeal Court overturned the decision of the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum to sentence Mrs Ibrahim to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. The Appeal Court also recognised Mrs Ibrahim's marriage to Daniel Wani and ordered her immediate release. However, the following day Mrs Ibrahim and her husband were detained at Khartoum Airport by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Mrs Ibrahim was born in western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six years old and she was subsequently brought up as a Christian by her mother. The case against Mrs Ibrahim began after her alleged family members made Sudanese authorities aware of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian with joint Sudanese and American citizenship. Morning Star news reported that Mrs Ibrahim testified before the court on 4 March that she is a life-long Christian, producing her marriage certificate, where she is classified as Christian, as evidence. Three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to court to testify of Mrs Ibrahim's lifelong adherence to Christianity were prevented from giving evidence.

Mrs Ibrahim's alleged family attempted to challenge the Appeal Court's decision to release her; however, CSW was informed this too has been dismissed. Her lawyers continue to face threats from extremists for working on her case. In a comment to CSW one lawyer said 'Now we are a target', adding that days earlier extremists had protested and reiterated they would kill Mrs Ibrahim and anyone who helped her. According to the lawyer, one of the people involved in this protest has been arrested.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We are delighted by the decision to drop the unwarranted cases against Mrs Ibrahim and her husband, and to allow the family to leave the country, and we commend the Italian government for its effective interventions on behalf of this family. However, the legal anomaly that allowed the prosecution and harassment of Mrs Ibrahim and her family continues still exists. In order to prevent further cases like Mrs Ibrahim's, we urge the Sudanese authorities to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens, as guaranteed in Sudan's Interim Constitution and in international statutes to which the nation is party. The Sudanese authorities must also ensure that human rights defenders are able to practice their profession without experiencing harassment and intimidation.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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