Woman who faced death in Sudan for her Christian faith flees to Italy, meets Pope
ROME — Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan because of her faith, arrived in Rome on Thursday, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
Ibrahim “will remain in Italy for a short time and then will travel on to the United States,” the ministry said.
Sudanese authorities had said Ibrahim was guilty of rejecting Islam in favor of Christianity, but her conviction for “apostasy” and adultery was overturned last month on appeal, following weeks of international controversy..
After her release, she and her husband, American Daniel Wani, were detained for two days, accused of falsifying travel documents after going to the airport in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. They were trying to fly to the United States with their baby daughter, who was born while Ibrahim was in prison, and toddler son.
Ibrahim and her family were greeted at the airport in Rome on Thursday by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
In a brief statement to reporters at the airport, Renzi said, “Today we are very happy. … Today is a day for celebration.”
Speaking alongside him, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli said Ibrahim and her children were well and in “excellent condition.”
He said Pope Francis had been informed Wednesday by the Prime Minister that the family was coming to Italy.
“He expressed his gratitude and happiness,” Pistelli said. “Mariam and her two children will have important meetings in the following days and then they will travel to the United States.”
Meeting with Pope Francis
Ibrahim met with the Pope on Thursday morning.
Pistelli said Italy had become involved in the case because, as a Catholic country, it was very moved by Ibrahim’s story and wanted to help.Italy has good relations with Khartoum and offered to help the U.S. Embassy there to speed up the process of getting U.S. passports for Ibrahim and her family to leave the country, the minister said.
Pistelli said he had traveled to Sudan two weeks ago to start the process but it was not finalized until Wednesday night.
He posted an image to his Facebook page of himself with Ibrahim and the two children, apparently taken on board the plane shortly before their arrival in Rome. “Mission accomplished,” he wrote.
Ibrahim, her husband and their two children are now in a protected government house, he said. It is unclear how long Ibrahim will stay in Rome before flying on to the United States, he said, adding that it had to do with passport procedures.
Ibrahim’s ordeal began when one of her relatives, a Muslim, filed a criminal complaint saying her family was shocked to find out she had married Wani, a Christian, after she was missing for several years.
A Sudanese court considered Ibrahim a Muslim because her father was Muslim. She was charged with adultery, because a Muslim woman’s marriage to a Christian man is illegal in Sudan. She was also charged with apostasy, accused of illegally renouncing what was alleged to be her original faith.
She insists she has never been a Muslim — and says she was persecuted as a Christian while in prison.
Convicted when she was about eight months pregnant, she gave birth two weeks later while shackled.
On Monday, a Sudanese Islamic jihadi group which has previously claimed an attack on a Sudanese journalist released a statement threatening Ibrahim.
The group vowed to carry out what it said was the justified death sentence against Ibrahim that was repealed by a higher court.
Amid this threatening environment, Daniel Wani said his family had reported seeing unknown people outside their old residence in Khartoum. Their numbers had been increasing over the past few days, he said.