WASHINGTON, June 25, 2014 — Dr. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was briefly released from a Sudan jail thanks to an appeals court ruling only to be detained” at the Khartoum airport as she tried to leave Sudan.
According to her legal team, Meriam escaped the death-row cell where she gave birth to her daughter, free for only a short time before again facing arrest.
This time, her entire family, including her U.S. citizen husband Daniel Wani and their two children, a nearly two-year old boy and an infant girl, were also arrested.
Her lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, says that more than 40 security officers prevented the family from leaving.
Ibrahim’s lawyers said authorities are alleging “irregularity with her documentation.” Though the Sudanese are denying she is under arrest, her lawyers tell CNN that she is being held in police custody.
“It’s very disappointing,” Elshareef said. “They were very angry. They took us [the family’s lawyers] outside, and took the family to a Niss detention centre. They have not been given access to lawyers.”
The U.S. has granted Ibrahim a visa, but Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services said that she was carrying South Sudanese travel documents, despite not being a citizen of South Sudan, and she was heading to the the U.S., which is not her native country.
According to Sudanese authorities, who have summoned both the U.S. and South Sudanese ambassadors, this is illegal.
The appeals court had overturned Ibrahim’s convictions and she was under no travel restrictions.
Political differences within the government over the case may be behind this new arrest. “I’m very concerned. When people do not respect the court, they might do anything,” says Elshareef.
Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, said the family had been “temporarily detained for several hours over questions related to their documents.”
“State Department has been informed by the Sudanese Government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested. The government has assured us of their safety.
The Embassy has been and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government. We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan, and of course, we’ll provide more information as we get it.”
Harf further reports that the family has been released and that State is working with Sudan and the Wani family to assure their safe passage, working with Sudan to resolve the “travel document issues.” She further clarified that while the Sudan government has assured their safety, and they have no reason to believe they are not safe, the situation is “fluid and fast changing.”
Ibrahim’s problems stem from a man known as Al-Hadi, who claims to be Ibrahim’s brother; Ibrahim denies that he is. In this latest round he has complained that he was not told that Ibrahim would be released, and he feels that the law has failed to uphold his rights. “This is now an issue of honor,” he said. “The Christians have tarnished our honor, and we will know how to avenge it.”
Sudan has an absolute duty to protect its citizens, according to Mashoold Adebayo Baderin, a UN independent expert on humans rights in Sudan. Wani claims that the U.S. embassy in Khartoum did not assist him once his wife was arrested. Other than “watching” the situation and accepting the Sudan government’s assurances of the families safety, actions by the U.S. Government, or comment from President Obama, were not forthcoming.
At a June 13 protest outside the White House, protestors, including Institute on Religion and Democracy, urged Obama to speak up in Ibrahim’s defense. On June 9, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a bill to grant the mother and her children permanent resident status in the U.S.
While Meriam has been released from the horrendous conditions of Knoll Prision, the fate of the post-partem mother and her children and husband, is unknown. What is known is that her alleged brother, a devote Muslim, has said he would rather see her murdered than allowed to live as a Christian.
While in Sudan, the family is undoubtedly still in great peril.