Sudanese Christian woman convicted of apostasy has left Sudan

Italy has helped facilitate the travel of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy, and her family out of Sudan. The family is currently in Rome, where they met with Pope Francis on Thursday, and will soon maker their way to the U.S.
By JC Finley  |  July 24, 2014 at 10:07 AM
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ROME, July 24 (UPI) -- Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy -- who was unable to depart Sudan for the U.S. due to alleged travel paper irregularity after her release from prison in June -- has arrived in Rome.

The Italian foreign ministry confirmed she arrived wither her children and husband on Thursday and noted that she "will remain in Italy for a short time and then will travel on to the United States."

While in Rome, she and her family met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican for approximately 30 minutes. The Holy Father thanked them for their "courageous constant witness to faith."

The Vatican commented on the meeting, explaining that Pope Francis "wanted to show his closeness, attention and prayer also for all of those that suffer for their faith and in particular for the Christians who undergo persecution or limitations imposed to religious freedom."

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy while she was eight months pregnant, and put in prison with her 20-month-old son. In May, a Sudanese court ruled she would die by hanging for renouncing the Muslim faith of her father, who left the family when Ibrahim was six years old. She was raised a Christian by her mother. The court also convicted Ibrahim of adultery for marrying a non-Muslim man, and sentenced her to be flogged.

While imprisoned, she gave birth to a baby girl on May 26.

Her jailing and death sentence sparked international outrage, and her sentence was overturned in June.

Hours after her release from prison, Ibrahim and her American citizen husband attempted to fly to the U.S. with their two young children, but were detained at the airport because of an "alleged irregularity with her documentation." Ibrahim and her husband were detained by police for days until they were released on bail and then sheltered by the U.S. embassy.

The U.S. Department of State acknowledged it was facilitating their travel to the U.S. and said at the time, "from our perspective, Meriam has all of the documents she needs to travel to and enter the United States. It's up to the Government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country."

Italian deputy Foreign Minister Lappo Pistelli said Italy became involved in Ibrahim's case because the Catholic country was impacted by the story of a Christian woman convicted for her religious beliefs and also because Italy enjoys good relations with Khartoum.

The family will soon continue their journey to the U.S.

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