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Sudanese Christian woman is in U.S. Embassy in Sudan, husband says

By Nima Elbagir and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Fri June 27, 2014
Mariam Yehya Ibrahim is shown after her release from prison. The daughter in her lap was born while she was behind bars.
Mariam Yehya Ibrahim is shown after her release from prison. The daughter in her lap was born while she was behind bars.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mariam Yehya Ibrahim and her family are in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, husband says
  • Ibraham and husband Daniel Wani were released from detention Thursday
  • The family was detained as it tried to travel to the United States
  • Ibrahim's death sentence for refusing to renounce her faith was overturned this week

(CNN) -- A Sudanese Christian woman who initially faced a death sentence after refusing to renounce her faith is now at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum with her family, her husband told CNN on Friday.

Mariam Yehya Ibrahim and her husband, American Daniel Wani, were freed from custody Thursday after having been detained two days earlier upon arriving at the airport in the Sudanese capital. Their two children are with them.

The family was trying to get to the United States.

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Ibrahim was accused of two criminal counts, traveling with falsified documents and giving false information, according to her legal team.

Tuesday's detention at the airport came a day after Ibrahim's legal team announced the 27-year-old woman had been released from prison following weeks of international controversy over her conviction on apostasy and adultery charges. Her death sentence had been overturned before that release.

It's not clear what will come next for Ibrahim, who has been given a U.S. visa.

In an interview with the BBC on her way to the embassy, Ibrahim did not offer specifics when asked about her future. "I will leave it to God," she said. "I didn't even have a chance to see my family when I got out of prison."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed Ibrahim had been released on bail, saying, "She and her family are in a safe location, and the government of Sudan has assured us of the family's continued safety."

Harf said that the U.S. Embassy "remains highly engaged" in the woman's case. "We will provide more information as it becomes available consistent with privacy laws," she said.

Sudanese authorities said Ibrahim was detained because of the documents she submitted.

Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services said that she had South Sudanese travel documents despite not being a citizen of South Sudan, and she was heading to the United States, which is not her native country.

"This was considered illegal by the Sudanese authorities, who have summoned both the U.S. and South Sudanese ambassadors," the agency said in a message posted this week on its Facebook page.

Religious freedom group 'gravely concerned'

Ibrahim's lawyer, Elshareef Ali, said he's glad his client is in "a safe place."

"We have strong evidence and strong confirmation from the South Sudan Embassy that these documents were issued by them," he said. "So we believe that the Sudanese authorities will dismiss this case."

According to her attorney, the case began when one of her relatives, a Muslim, filed a criminal complaint saying her family was shocked to find out she had married Wani, a Christian, after she was missing for several years.

A Sudanese court considered Ibrahim a Muslim because her father was Muslim, but she said she was a Christian and never practiced Islam. She was charged with adultery, because a Muslim woman's marriage to a Christian man is illegal in Sudan, and with apostasy, accused of illegally renouncing what was alleged to be her original faith.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Wednesday it was "gravely concerned" by Ibrahim's airport detention.

"We are very disturbed by these new developments," Chairman Robert P. George said. "Our chief concern now is for (Mariam) and her family's safety, that they be freed, and for their human rights to be fully respected."

The international community must hold Sudan's government accountable for its constitutional provisions and international commitments to respect freedom of religion by all Sudanese, he said.

Woman's 'brother' says she should repent

What does death sentence for faith say about Sudan?

Why marrying for love should never mean death

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