Christian woman freed ‘accused of fake papers’

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim with her husband, family and lawyers. Picture: AFP/Getty
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim with her husband, family and lawyers. Picture: AFP/Getty
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A WOMAN who attempted to leave Sudan to fly to the United States the day after an appeal court overturned her death sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam has sparked a diplomatic row.

The Sudanese foreign ministry has summoned the US and South Sudanese ambassadors after a woman used documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, was detained as she and her American husband Daniel Wani and two children sought to fly out of Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Tuesday, a day after she was released from death row. It was reported last night that her lawyer claims she has been accused of using fake documents.

Mrs Ibrahim was freed on Monday after the government came under what it called unprecedented pressure.

“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa,” a spokesman for ­Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services said, referring to Mrs Ibrahim by her Muslim name.

“The Sudanese authorities considered [the action] a criminal violation, and the foreign ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ­ambassadors.”

Under Sudan’s penal code, forging a document is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer, ­Mohaned Mostafa said she is ­expected to stay in police custody for 24 hours.

Her case triggered an international outcry and was closely monitored by Washington and London, who last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires to protest against Mrs Ibrahim’s death sentence. ­Following her release on Monday, Mrs Ibrahim was sent to a secret location for her protection after her family reported receiving threats, another of her lawyers said.

The US state department offered a different version of events on Tuesday, saying the ­Sudanese government had told it that Mrs Ibrahim had been detained for several hours and then released but that she had not been arrested.

A spokeswoman said: “The state department has been ­informed by the Sudanese government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested.

“The government has assured us of their safety.”

The spokeswoman added the US embassy was “highly involved” in working with the family and the government to resolve the matter.

“We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan.”

The US has imposed economic sanctions on Sudan since 1997 over alleged human rights ­violations.

It intensified sanctions in 2006 over Khartoum’s actions in its conflict with rebels in the western region of Darfur.

South Sudan, with a majority Christian population, became independent from Sudan after a public vote in 2011 that ended years of civil war between the two states.

Islamic laws are ­applied in Sudan, where most of the residents are Sunni Muslims.