Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Ambassadors summoned in Christian convert row

‘CRIMINAL VIOLATION’:A woman who was freed after being sentenced to death was detained over her papers. The US says it was told she was not arrested

Reuters, KHARTOUM

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the US and South Sudanese ambassadors after a Christian-convert woman attempted to travel to the US using documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy, the state’s top security service said yesterday.

The move escalated a diplomatic row over Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, who was detained as she and her US husband and two children sought to fly out of Khartoum on Tuesday, a day after she was released from death row.

Ibrahim was freed on Monday by an appeals court which canceled the death sentence imposed on her for having converted to Christianity from Islam, after the government came under what it called unprecedented pressure.

“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying a US visa,” the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services’ media department said on Facebook, calling Ibrahim by her Muslim name.

“The Sudanese authorities considered [the action] a criminal violation, and the Foreign Ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors,” it added.

Ibrahim’s lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said that she is expected to stay in police custody for 24 hours.

Her case triggered an international outcry and was closely monitored by Washington and London, who last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires to protest against Ibrahim’s initial death sentence.

Following her brief release on Monday, Ibrahim was sent to a secret location for her protection after her family reported receiving threats, another one of her lawyers had said.

In Washington, the US State Department offered a different version of events on Tuesday, saying the Sudanese government had told the US that Ibrahim had been detained and then released, but that she had not been arrested.

“The State Department has been informed by the Sudanese government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested,” US Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

“The government has assured us of their safety,” Harf added, saying that the US embassy was “highly involved” in working with the family and the government to resolve the matter.

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