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Meriam Ibrahim Remains In A Legal Limbo In Sudan

July 7, 2014

The story of Meriam Ibrahim one that remains unresolved as she sits inside the U.S. Embassy in The Sudan. As reported by SaharaReporters on June 26, U.S. Officials were confident that Ibrahim and her family would be out of the embattled African nation in a ‘matter of days.’ That was at the end of June.

Now, it appears the assumption on the part of the American government may have been too optimistic.

Meriam Ibrahim

At the U.S. State Department news briefing in Washington on this first Monday of July, department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was vague about Ibrahim’s legal status, and whether or not her departure would be in a ‘matter of days.’

As of this report she remains inside the U.S. Embassy, with Sudanese government officials still not issuing her travel documents to depart. She is currently out of Sudanese custody on bail.

Meriam Ibrahim is the Sudanese woman who was charged and convicted of marrying a Christian, and was set to be hanged for her offense. It was a charge that garnered world attention, and outrage.

The Sudanese government backed-down, they dropped the charges against her, and she was released in late June. On June 24th Ibrahim, along with her husband and two children were set to leave Sudan. Ibrahim, instead, was re-arrested at Khartoum International Airport, while attempting to get on a flight out of the country.  Again, that arrest, on what the Sudanese officials said was based on the woman using “false travel documents,” also garnered world attention, and outrage.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen. It was unclear at the time if the couple had plans to file an application for her political asylum in the U.S.

Yet, State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said she cold “not issue any details” about the strange case that has been a kind of international game of ‘cat and mouse’ between the two governments.

Ibrahim was attempting to leave the country on travel papers issued by South Sudan, a nation that came into existence three years ago, and whose legal documents Sudanese government officials at the Khartoum Airport were not bound to recognize. She was carted away in dramatic fashion, seized in fact, by an astonishing 40 members of the National Intelligence Security Services, who many citizens in Sudan dub the 'Agents of Fear.'  

What was especially alarming for many in the international community was not only the charges Ibrahim had faced, but her treatment by the Sudanese officials during her incarceration. Meriam Ibrahim was pregnant at the time of her arrest, and later had received a death sentence. She was also subjected to harsh treatment while in custody. For example, she was put to bed in prison with her legs chained, following her insistence never to renounce her Christian faith, and that came within a four-day ultimatum.

She was also set to receive 100 lashes of the cane, while her marriage to Wani was pronounced dissolved. Ibrahim was threatened with death by hanging, for what the Sudanese called “apostasy.”

While U.S. officials will not formally detail her whereabouts inside the country, it is common knowledge that she, along with her family are staying at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum while the legal matters are sorted out.

What Jen Psaki did say is that all of her legal paperwork, and travel documents that would allow her entry into the U.S. are “in place,” it is the Sudanese who are the party moving slow in this regard.

At issue is her legal status, and the fact that she is out on bail, which under normal legal circumstances would require her to go, yet again, before a judge to decide her fate. Under Sudanese law, traveling outside their country on falsified documents is a charge, if convicted that can bring a seven-year sentence.

The U.S. is being coy, if not silent, while the legal matter, that is in fact an international incident, is hammered out. Meriam Ibrahim remains, at present, in a legal limbo with her departure from the war-torn nation of Sudan, uncertain as when she when she will be allowed to leave. 

Human Rights