The husband of a Sudanese Christian woman facing threats after her apostasy death sentence was overturned has expressed relief that the family has been given refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum.
“Really, it’s good,” Daniel Wani, the American husband of Meriam Ibrahim, told news agency AFP by telephone on Friday, adding that embassy staff had been “very helpful and very nice”.
He said his wife and two children, who could be heard in the background, were doing well at the heavily guarded facility.
Ibrahim (27) went to the US embassy on Thursday after being detained at Khartoum airport as she tried to leave Sudan. Her arrest came just days after her release from death row.
Wani confirmed they had sought the embassy’s protection because of death threats against his wife.
A US state department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said the family were in a safe location and Sudan’s government had assured the US of their continued safety.
Ibrahim was detained with her husband and two young children at Khartoum airport on Tuesday over allegations that she had forged travel documents. But she was discharged from a police station, on the condition she remained in Sudan, after the government came under pressure from foreign diplomats.
Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Christian mother, was last month convicted of apostasy and sentenced to hang. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery after a court ruled her marriage to Wani, a Christian, was invalid.
Under Sudan’s penal code Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men. Ibrahim insisted she had been brought up as a Christian.
The case prompted outrage, with more than a million people backing Amnesty International’s campaign for her release.
Annulled death sentence
On Monday the appeal court annulled her death sentence and freed her, after which she went into hiding because of death threats.
Her husband, Daniel Wani, a US citizen since 2005, said he hoped the family could start a new life in America. But 24 hours later security service agents apprehended the family, including a baby girl born while Ibrahim was shackled to the floor of her cell, claiming that her travel documents were forged.
Ibrahim’s lawyer Elshareef Mohammed said more than 40 security officers stopped them from boarding a plane to Washington.
The US state department said its envoy then met Sudanese foreign ministry officials at their request and told them the family needed to be able “to depart as swiftly as possible from Sudan and that we are happy to help in any way we can”.
Wani has claimed that those who triggered the case against his wife, whom he married in 2011, were attempting to muscle in on her business interests, including a hair salon, mini-mart and agricultural land. – © Guardian News & Media