The strange and enraging case of Meriam Yehia Ibrahim continues, and the news isn’t getting much better. Freed earlier in the week from prison and a death sentence for apostasy, the young Christian mother found herself and her family surrounded by 40 or more agents at the airport when they attempted to leave Sudan yesterday. She’s out on bail but facing new charges of document fraud:
The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for being a Christian has been released from her latest detention but has been charged with new crimes, MailOnline can reveal.
Meriam Ibrahim has been accused of falsifying travel documents as she tried to leave the African country hours after the death penalty was dropped against her.
It is understood that the authorities told her she should have used the Muslim name she had when she was born, not the Christian name she uses after choosing to worship that faith.
If that sounds a lot like the old case against Ibrahim, it is. Sudan apparently wants to force Ibrahim into admitting that she converted to Christianity; she has insisted all along that she wasn’t raised Muslim in the first place. It’s another bite at the same rotten apple, and completely inexplicable except for spite. At this point, with Sudan making itself look like a thug state, why not let Ibrahim leave and be rid of the bad public relations?
The US and Sudan exchanged some harsh words yesterday over the case, remotely and in person:
A diplomatic spat escalated Wednesday as Sudan summoned the U.S. ambassador over Washington’s attempts to assist a mother who had been sentenced to death for refusing to denounce Christianity. Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was freed from death row on Monday but just one day later Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) re-arrested her at Khartoum’s airport. The NISS, a shadowy and feared institution, said on its Facebook page that Ibrahim and her family had been attempting to travel to the U.S. with documents from the embassy of South Sudan, which split from its northern neighbor in 2011 after years of civil war. It said she was carrying a U.S. visa, and that her attempts to use the documents were considered a “criminal offense.”
The bail for Ibrahim was posted by a friend, but she’s stuck in Sudan again unless the US can get her out. One activist group fighting religious oppression blames the US for keeping her stuck there in the first place:
Hardwired, a global social justice movement that mobilizes young leaders around the world to end religious oppression, noted in a Facebook post on Tuesday, however, that Meriam was only released Tuesday after a friend posted her bail and that individual will be penalized if she leaves the country before the charges are settled. …
The organization’s founder, Tina Ramirez, also called on Congress to investigate the way in which Meriam Ibrahim’s case was handled by the State Department.
She argues that the painful fiasco could have been avoided if U.S. embassy officials in Sudan had given Meriam’s U.S. citizen husband Daniel Wani the help he requested when he approached them with the case last September.
“The US government should have coordinated with the government of Sudan to get them out of the country. This is sloppy. They have had three years to sort this out and whenever Daniel has gone to the U.S. embassy in Sudan for help they have refused,” said Ramirez.
“I think that Congress should be investigating what happened here. The US says that it cares about human rights issues and this is something they should be caring about. It’s a total failure, it’s shameful,” she added.
That wouldn’t be a bad idea. In the meantime, maybe our own State Department should be calling the Sudanese ambassador on the carpet in Washington DC to make a few demands, too. This involves US citizens — arguably Ibrahim herself, and certainly the children — and the government in Khartoum had better get the message quick that we take that very, very seriously.