Sudan releases Christian convert but insists she stay in the country
A Sudanese woman who was spared the death penalty for converting to Christianity but was then detained as she tried to leave the country was released from custody on Thursday, on condition she remains in Sudan, her lawyer said.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, was detained at Khartoum airport on Tuesday, one day after an appeals court overturned a death sentence imposed for having converted from Islam to marry her Christian American husband.
Her lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said Ibrahim, her husband and two children had all gone to the U.S. embassy after the release.
Ibrahim was detained on Tuesday for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum with her American-South Sudanese husband and their two children.
Ibrahim waved at reporters as she and her family left the police station where she had been held for questioning and while she found a guarantor to ensure she did not flee Sudan.
“Mariam was released after a guarantor was found, but, of course, she would not be able to leave the country,” lawyer Mostafa said.
Despite lifting her death sentence after huge international pressure, Sudan still does not recognise Ibrahim as a Christian and therefore does not recognise her marriage, as Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men under the Islamic laws applied in the African country.
South Sudan, which has a majority Christian population, became independent from the mostly Muslim north after a referendum in 2011 that ended years of civil war.
Ibrahim’s case has been closely monitored by Washington and London, which last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires to protest against Ibrahim’s initial death sentence and urged Sudan to uphold its international obligations on freedom of religion and belief.
A U.S. spokeswoman said on Thursday that Ibrahim had all the documents she needed to travel to the United States.
“It’s up to the government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told a regular State Department news briefing before Ibrahim’s release.
“We are in communication with the Sudanese Foreign Ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible.”
The United States 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.