SUDAN - After blocking her departure on a spurious charge of forged travel documents, Sudan today allowed a Christian mother sentenced to die over a false allegation of leaving Islam to leave the country, her attorney said.
Having given birth to her second child while shackled to prison chains just two months ago, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim arrived in Italy today and met with Pope Francis after U.S. and Italian efforts to free her.
"The government decided to drop charges against her yesterday, July 23," attorney Thabit al Zubair told Morning Star News. "They have left Sudan and they are now in Italy."
Ibrahim and her husband, dual South Sudanese/U.S. citizen Daniel Wani, arrived in Rome on an Italian government jet today with plans to continue to the United States. A Vatican spokesman told The Associated Press that the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity."
The couple arrived to cheers, greeted by the Italian prime minister, with their infant daughter Maya, born May 27, and nearly 2-year-old son Martin, who had remained with his mother since her imprisonment without trial in February. Muslims claiming to be relatives had accused her of leaving Islam. Ibrahim says that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother, and that her Muslim father disappeared when she was 6 years old.
She was released from prison in Sudan on June 23, less than two months after Morning Star News broke the story of false charges of apostasy against her that set off a firestorm of international protests, only to be detained at the Khartoum airport less than 24 hours later. More than 40 agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested her, and Ibrahim was charged with "forging" travel documents, punishable by nearly seven years in prison.
Her attorney had told Morning Star News the charge had no legal base, saying, "We hope they will cancel the case to avoid embarrassment, and if the case is sent to the court, there will be no legal base for it."
A man who claimed to be Ibrahim's brother told local media that he would kill her and take revenge on other Christians in Sudan.
"She has spoiled our image as a family, and we know how to take revenge against Christians," he reportedly said.
Ibrahim had received a sentence of death by hanging for allegedly leaving Islam after a Muslim claiming to be a relative accused her of marrying a Christian man - the crime of "adultery" under Islamic law for which she was also sentenced to 100 lashes.
Sudan revoked the death sentence on June 23 after defense lawyers presented their case. Witnesses for the defense had been prohibited from testifying during the trial. Islamists clamored for her death throughout the trial, and her attorneys have received death threats.
International media, Western embassies and human rights groups urged her release when Ibrahim's death sentence was confirmed after she refused to recant her faith on May 15.
After being held for two days following her arrest at the airport, Ibrahim was released on June 26, and she and her family had taken refuge at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.