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Mother who faced death in Sudan flies to see Pope

Meriam Ibrahim, centre, with baby Maya, husband Daniel, son Martin and Pope Francis. Picture: AP

Meriam Ibrahim, centre, with baby Maya, husband Daniel, son Martin and Pope Francis. Picture: AP

  • by DANIEL BATES
 

THE mother-of-two sentenced to death for being a Christian has left Sudan and flown to Italy where she and her family met Pope Francis yesterday.

Meriam Ibrahim was thanked by the Pope for her “faith and courage” and refusal to convert despite facing intense pressure

Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said the 27-year-old doctor also thanked Francis for his “prayer and solidarity” during a half-hour meeting.

Dr Ibrahim and her son Martin, 21 months, and daughter Maya, two months, will now spend the next few days in Rome before flying on to the US with her husband Daniel Wani, who is a naturalised American citizen.

Rev Lombardi also described the meeting between Dr Ibrahim and the Pope as “very affectionate”.

He said: “The Pope thanked Meriam and her family for their courageous testimony of unwavering faith.”

According to religious freedom group Hardwired, which has campaigned for Dr Ibrahim’s freedom, the charges against her are still open and it is unclear what will happen to them.

Her original death sentence for apostasy is now with the Supreme Court in Khartoum.

She also faces additional charges for falsifying documents and a new case filed by her family which seeks to annul her marriage.

Dr Ibrahim had been sentenced to death and 100 lashes for apostasy and adultery for marrying Mr Wani as they are both Christian. A strict Sharia court in Khartoum ruled that as Dr Ibrahim’s father was a Muslim she could not have converted and must worship Islam.

During her time in jail – which attracted international condemnation – Dr Ibrahim gave birth to Maya while shackled to the floor and had Martin with her throughout.

Her release was secured after Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, flew to the US embassy in Khartoum two weeks ago to press for her release.

Mr Pistelli said Dr Ibrahim’s passport was only returned to her on Wednesday evening and she flew out of the country as soon as she could, arriving yesterday.

Dr Ibrahim was thrown in jail in February after a man claiming to be her half-brother launched a civil claim against her for deserting the family, which led to the criminal charges.

She was convicted in May by which time her case had been highlighted by human rights campaigners and people such as former US president Bill Clinton, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and actress Mia Farrow.

The governments of the UK, Canada and the Netherlands all called for her to be freed and US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was concerned about her treatment.

Prime Minister David Cameron also called her treatment “barbaric”.

Dr Ibrahim was freed last month and her sentence later overturned but when she tried to flee Sudan she was detained, accused of using false papers.

It was feared she could face a new trial for alleged forgery. Her supposed half-brother also filed a new petition with the court demanding she be hanged.

Dr Ibrahim is now to fly to the US and eventually to Manchester, New Hampshire, where Mr Wani, a biochemist who is in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, now resides.

Last night his brother Gabriel said: “It’s beautiful news. I want to thank everyone who helped to free her. I called my brother and he said that he was OK and that he was in Italy. He had to hang up as he was going to meet the Pope.”

 

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