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NASHVILLE (BP) — The Sudanese Christian woman who was freed from prison yesterday (June 23) has been detained while trying to leave Sudan with her family.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, 27, was confronted by a team of approximately 50 security personnel and taken into custody at the Khartoum airport today (June 24), NBC News reported. Ibrahim’s lawyer, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, told NBC that Sudanese security forces did not state a reason for their actions and took Ibrahim to a detention center with her husband Daniel Wani, who is an American citizen, and two young children — Maya, born May 27, and Martin, 20 months.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Sudanese government told American officials that Ibrahim and her family were “temporarily detained” over issues relating their travel documents, the Associated Press reported. The family is safe and not under arrest, and American officials are attempting to get them out of the country, Harf said.
The British Foreign Office said Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service was responsible for the detention, NBC reported.
Tina Ramirez, executive director of Hardwired Inc., an organization that works to alleviate religious oppression globally, told Baptist Press in an email that Ibrahim and her family were attempting to travel to South Sudan and then to the U.S. once paperwork was completed.
Ibrahim “reportedly is only detained but may have been taken by the national security [officials] outside the airport, which raises questions about their intent,” Ramirez told BP.
A member of Ibrahim’s defense team told International Christian Concern there is no legal means of intervening on Ibrahim’s behalf at this point and that her attorneys have been threatened with arrest.
Russell D. Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead religious freedom advocate, said the situation is “extremely concerning.”
“The persecution of this brave Christian woman has been a shocking violation of human rights,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said. “The church should mobilize to pray for Mariam’s safety, and for any hindrances to her being allowed to leave the country to be removed.”
Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., co-chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, said he is “appalled by the continued threats against Meriam, her husband, their two young children, and her lawyers.”
“We must hold Sudanese authorities accountable for this precious family’s safety. Furthermore, the National Intelligence [and] Security Service in Sudan must respect the appeal court’s ruling and allow Meriam and her family to safely leave the country,” Franks said in a statement. “… This case is only one example of Sudan’s long record of religious persecution and the U.S. must maintain pressure on Sudan’s government to make desperately needed religious freedom reforms.”
Ibrahim gained her freedom after a Sudanese appeals court overturned a death sentence she received for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, Bloomberg News reported. Ibrahim, whose conviction and death sentence were greeted by international protests, was convicted under Sharia law of “apostasy” (leaving Islam) and sentenced to death by hanging. She also received a sentence of 100 lashes for adultery on the basis of her marriage to a Christian.
Ibrahim gave birth to the couple’s second child in the Omdurman Federal Prison for Women in Khartoum. Their 20-month-old son had been imprisoned with his mother since February.
Baptist Press will provide additional details as they become available.
Compiled by Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).