Sudanese Christian woman lands in Rome

Woman sentenced to death for apostasy is welcomed in Italy

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was condemned to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, arrived in Rome with her family on 24 July, en route to New York.

Ibrahim was welcomed at Rome's Ciampino airport by Italy's premier Matteo Renzi and foreign minister Federica Mogherini, after landing on a plane provided by the Italian government. The 27-year-old mother of two arrived with her husband Daniel Wani, an American citizen, and their young children Martin and baby Maya who was born in a jail in Sudanese capital Khartoum two months ago.

Ibrahim was accompanied on the flight by Italy's deputy foreign affairs minister Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late the night before. The Italian government has organised her stay in Italy, in collaboration with the Sudanese government, and she is expected to stay a few days before the family travel to the US. During her time in Rome she is expected to meet Pope Francis who expressed “his gratitude and joy” when learning of her arrival according to Pistelli who also said that Sudanese authorities only returned Ibrahim's passport to her late on 23 July.

In May Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to be hanged for apostasy after refusing to renounce her Christian faith. She was accused of adultery for marrying her Christian husband, as mixed-marriage is not recognised in Sudanese courts. When Ibrahim asserted that she was in fact not Muslim but Christian she was then accused of apostasy.

Following an international outcry, Sudan's supreme court overturned the sentence and released her but not before she gave birth to Maya while shackled to the floor of her prison cell at Omdurman women's prison. Ibrahim was initially prevented from leaving Sudan, which accused her of possessing “fake” documents, a charge she denies.

Italian media reported that she had been staying at the American embassy in Khartoum since her release on 23 June. Earlier this month Renzi mentioned her case in his speech inaugurating Italy's six-month EU presidency, saying "If there is no European reaction we cannot feel worthy to call ourselves 'Europe'." The Italian premier described her arrival in Rome as "a day of celebration."

Photo ANSA