By Mark Ellis
Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese mother released from prison this week was released from custody at the airport as she and her family attempted to leave the country, her legal team confirmed.
According to Sudanese officials, Meriam was not able to provide sufficient documentation in attempting to leave the country, despite her alleged possession of a United States (U.S.) visa.
The family was set to travel to South Sudan, possibly en-route to their anticipated final destination: the U.S., according to International Christian Concern. They were initially flying to South Sudan – the birthplace of Wani – because their paperwork to travel to the United States was still being processed, according to The Telegraph.
Ibrahim and her family were driven to the airport in a U.S. vehicle with American diplomats after South Sudan issued emergency travel paperwork for them. But security officials at the airport apparently found problems with the documents.
Wani is an American citizen and supporters of the family, backed by the senators from his state of New Hampshire, have urged the U.S. to grant a visa to Ibrahim and citizenship to their two children.
The 27-year-old woman’s steadfast refusal to renounce her faith in court in May, prompted a judge to sentence her to death-by-hanging for apostasy.
At the time of her arrest, Ibrahim was expecting her second child, and gave birth to a girl on May 27, 2014. Authorities in Sudan said they would not carry out the death sentence until two years after the baby’s birth.
Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, but he abandoned her to be raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. She was raised in her mother’s faith and married a Christian man. She never considered herself a follower of Islam.
Although Ibrahim was always a Christian, the prosecution claimed she should have followed her absentee father’s faith. With the judge’s support, she was given three days to abandon her faith in Jesus, but refused.
The case became an international cause, with many castigating the decision as cruel and unjust. Sudan’s national news service SUNA said the court in Khartoum canceled the death sentence after defense lawyers presented her case, then the court ordered her to be released.
“We have confirmed through her attorney that she has been released from prison today,” said Tina Ramirez,
executive director for the Christian advocacy group Hardwired. Hardwired has worked closely with Ibrahim’s family and lawyer.
Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, has U.S. and Sudanese citizenship, and many argued that their children are technically U.S. citizens.
Wani came to the U.S. as a boy to escape the civil war in Sudan, but later went back to his country of origin. He was not permitted to have custody of his son because authorities said the child could not be raised by a Christian man.
Sudan’s legal system criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions, and such an “offense” is punishable by death. Muslim women in Sudan are also prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, although Muslim men are permitted to marry outside their faith. Under their laws, children are required to follow their father’s religion.