ROME/KHARTOUM – A Sudanese woman who was spared a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity and then barred from leaving Sudan flew into Rome on Thursday on an Italian government plane, officials said.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, whose sentence and detention triggered international outrage, arrived at Rome's Ciampino airport with her family and Italy's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli, television pictures showed. She was greeted on the tarmac by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzo and his wife as well as Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
Meriam was sentenced to death by a Sudanese court in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American. The conviction was quashed last month, but Sudan's government accused her of trying to leave the country with falsified papers, preventing her departure for the United States with her American-South Sudanese husband and two children.
Her lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said he had not been told of her departure. “I don't know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Meriam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” Mostafa told Reuters. Meriam says she was born and raised as a Christian by an Ethiopian family in Sudan and later abducted by a Sudanese Muslim family.
The Muslim family denies that and filed a lawsuit to have her marriage annulled last week in a new attempt to stop her leaving the country. That case was later dropped. Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men under the Islamic law enforced in Sudan. Meriam, her husband and children had been staying at the US Embassy in Khartoum.