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Sudan: reports suggest acquitted Christian and family detained at airport

Newsreports indicate Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim has been rearrested, following her acquittal.

Newsreports indicate Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim has been rearrested, following her acquittal. The 27-year-old doctor who was made to give birth in jail had been sentenced to be hanged for apostasy. The charges against Meriam were dropped yesterday, but according to news reports she has rearrested at Khartoum airport, reports Release International.
 
CNN says it has spoken to Meriam’s husband, American citizen Daniel Wani, who was also detained as the family tried to leave the country.
 
The BBC adds 40 security agents detained Meriam, Daniel and their two children – including newborn Maya – before they could fly to South Sudan en route to the US. According to the BBC, they are being held in the headquarters of one of Sudan’s security agencies.
 
Sudan has yet to comment. The BBC believes the National Intelligence and Security Services may have disapproved of Meriam’s acquittal. If so, they may be treating the issue as one of national security rather than a criminal matter, which could have grave consequences.
 
Release International Chief Executive Paul Robinson comments: "This is deeply disturbing news. Meriam should never have been charged, jailed or humiliated in this way. This young family have done nothing wrong and should be allowed to live in freedom in the country of their choice.
 
"We urge Sudan to live up to the country’s interim constitution which protects freedom of faith and forbids religious coercion. There have already been signals that a new permanent constitution could remove those basic human rights. We urge Sudan to enshrine these essential freedoms in both its constitution and its legal code."
 
Earlier, following news that Meriam had been acquitted, Release International warned about a continuing threat to her safety:
 
Release International is concerned for the safety of Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim, who has been acquitted on apostasy and adultery charges after giving birth in jail. Meriam faced the death sentence, and Release, which serves persecuted Christians around the world, fears vigilantes may still try to kill her even though the appeal court has cancelled the charges against her.
 
Meriam, whose father was a Muslim, was brought up a Christian by her Ethiopian mother. The heavily pregnant 27-year-old doctor was sentenced to death by hanging for allegedlychanging her faith. The sentence caused an international uproar.
 
"We’re delighted Meriam has been released, but it should never have come to this," says Release Chief Executive, Paul Robinson.
 
"This is a woman who was brought up as a Christian and who married a Christian man. Her father, who left home when she was six, was a Muslim. For that reason alone, her marriage was annulled and she was accused of both apostasy and adultery. She was sentenced to 100 lashes followed by execution by hanging. And was forced to give birth in shackles in her cell. Prime Minister David Cameron has described such treatment as 'barbaric, having no place in today’s world.'"
 
Sudan’s law and constitution are at odds. It is a capital offence for a Muslim to change their faith, while the interim constitution of 2005 states ‘every person shall have the right to freedom of creed and worship’. It also forbids religious coercion.
 
These protections, already contested, could be removed from the forthcoming permanent constitution, which President Omar al-Bashir has declared should be ‘100 per cent Islamic.’ The imposition of sharia (Islamic law) on the Christian and animist south was a factor that led to the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
 
"Religious coercion – persecution by another name – is already getting worse for Christians in Sudan, despite the constitution," says Paul Robinson. "The authorities are becoming more rigid in their enforcement of Islamic law. They have demolished churches and deported Christians. And if it hadn’t been for an international outcry, they might have taken the life of this woman."
 
"The good news is that the appeal court has overturned the ruling. Release supporters were among those who pressed hard for this and we welcome that decision. The worry now is that militants who believe the courts have gone soft may try to take Meriam’s life. It’s already been reported that there have been death threats against her lawyers.
 
"We urge Sudan to continue to protect the religious freedom guaranteed under its interim constitution.Those guarantees must now be firmly enshrined in the forthcoming constitution and in law. And we call on the authorities to do all in their power to protect Meriam and her family."
 
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

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