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Freed Christian woman arrested leaving Sudan

  • File - In this image made from an undated video provided Thursday, June 5, 2014, by Al Fajer, a Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Meriam Ibrahim breastfeeds her newborn baby girl that she gave birth to in jail last week, as the NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP Photo/Al Fajer)

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese Christian woman was arrested Tuesday at Khartoum airport a day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy and released her from prison, a source familiar with the incident said.

“The National Security took her and Daniel,” the source said, referring to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, and her American husband Daniel Wani.

The status of their two young children, one a baby born in prison before Ishag’s release, was not immediately known.

The couple were detained, for reasons that are unclear, at about 1100 GMT as they tried to leave Sudan, the source said.

“She has the right to leave the country,” he added.

The source could not give more details except to say they were taken to a facility of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told AFP he was not familiar with the latest developments and could not comment.

Ishag’s case sparked an outcry from Western governments and rights groups after a lower-court sentenced her to death on May 15.

Born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, Ishag was convicted under Shariah law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

When Ishag was 5, her father abandoned the family, and she was raised with her mother’s faith.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum said she joined the church shortly before she married.

“She has never been a Muslim in her life,” a statement said.

Ishag and Wani were detained at roughly the same time the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, held a news conference in Khartoum.

He said that if she had received death threats, “as a citizen of this country, Sudan has a duty to protect its citizens.”

Baderin, who visited Ishag in prison, said the case “raises important legal questions about the right to freedom of religion and belief.”

Twelve days after the lower court issued its death sentence, Ishag gave birth to her baby daughter at the women’s prison in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, where she was shackled during pregnancy, Mustafa said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 25, 2014, on page 10.
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Summary

A Sudanese Christian woman was arrested Tuesday at Khartoum airport a day after a court annulled her death sentence for apostasy and released her from prison, a source familiar with the incident said.

The couple were detained, for reasons that are unclear, at about 1100 GMT as they tried to leave Sudan, the source said.

Born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, Ishag was convicted under Shariah law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

Twelve days after the lower court issued its death sentence, Ishag gave birth to her baby daughter at the women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, where she was shackled during pregnancy, Mustafa said.


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