Meriam Yahia Ibrahim’s Alleged Release from Police Custody Raises Questions about Next Steps and Key Players
Cameron Thomas, Regional Manager for Africa
06/26/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In the latest development in what is amounting to a game of legal hopscotch—with the freedom of an innocent woman and her family as the stakes—Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a 27-year-old mother and wife to an American citizen, has reportedly been released from police custody in Khartoum. Meriam was arrested Wednesday on two criminal charges after trying to leave the country with husband, Daniel, and two children, Martin and Maya.
Monday, Meriam was released from the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison following the Khartoum Court of Appeals descision to overturn a ruling by the El Haj Yousif Public Order Court that had sentenced Meriam to 100 lashes and death by hanging on charges of adultery and apostasy. The morning after her release from prison, Meriam and family were detained by 40 members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) personnel at Khartoum airport while trying to board a flight to South Sudan, Daniel’s country of origin.
Equipped with South Sudanese travel papers—personally issued by that country’s Charge d’Affaires—and a United States (U.S.) visa, the Ibrahims were detained over “irregularities” in Meriam’s paperwork, according to Sudanese foreign ministry official Abdullahi Alzareg. Following the Ibrahims’ “brief” detention, as State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf described the event, Meriam was released into local law-enforcement’s custody for a 24-hour interrogation period.
Concluding that interrogation, Meriam was charged with falsifying documents and providing false information, punishable by up to sever years of imprisonment. Reports now indicate that as result of pressure on the Sudanese state by unnamed foreign diplomats, Meriam has been released after a tense night in a holding cell at the al-Shareed police station in Khartoum.
Many questions remain regarding Meriam’s current situation. The terms of the release have yet to be clarified, the countries that successfully pressured the government of Sudan into releasing her from police custody have not been named, no official determination as to whether the two criminal charges still stand has been issued, and whether or not Sudan has placed a travel ban on Meriam has yet to be confirmed.
Whether Meriam is now with her family, or even in the country, remains unknown. Meriam’s treatment during these periods of detention, questioning, and reported arrest is also unknown. International Christian Concern (ICC) has, at the time of this publication, been unable to reach the Ibrahims’ defense for comment. In speaking with ICC Wednesday, Mohand Mustafa confirmed that he and the Ibrahims’ other defense lawyers had filed a request with the prosecutor that Ibrahim be released on bail. The reported release could be the result of the granting of such a request; however, the cause for Meriam’s reported release has not yet been made public.
Despite the many questions currently surrounding the case, the need for international intervention remains clear: the U.S. and international community must utilize every available resource to ensure the Ibrahims’ safe and swift departure from the country. Additionally, Sudan’s justifications for repeatedly violating the Ibrahims’ human rights over the course of the past few days must be addressed.
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