By Joshua Ely, Andrew J. Ireland and Joshua Noble
WASHINGTON – A Christian woman in Sudan freed from a death sentence for abandoning Islam because her father was a Muslim has been rearrested, according to new reports on Tuesday.
Elshareef Ali Mohammed, a lawyer for Meriam Ibrahim, told NBC a group of 50 security force members arrested her during a confrontation at the Khartoum airport.
With her were her two children and her husband, Daniel Wani, an American citizen, the report said.
Ibrahim had been released from prison, where she’d been held on the religious charges since February, on Monday after an appeals court ruled she was convicted in error, and American analysts immediately said the family should flee Sudan because of the ongoing danger.
Her lawyer said the family, in fact, had made plans to leave Sudan.
NBC said Mohammed was at the airport with Ibrahim and reported security forces gave no grounds for her arrest.
“He said Ibrahim had been taken to a detention center accompanied by her two children and husband Daniel Wani, who insisted on going with her,” NBC reported.
“I have no more information,” he told NBC. “They knew she had been cleared by the court but they have re-arrested her – I don’t know why.”
One of those with a warning about the remaining danger for Ibrahim was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He told WND on Monday when Ibrahim’s release was announced the Obama administration should act quickly and ensure that the U.S. Embassy in Sudan provides immediate help to Meriam Ibrahim, her husband and her two children.
After she was re-arrested, the organization said, “Though it is unclear on what basis Meriam and her family are being detained in Sudan, this development is obviously deeply troubling. A court order has overturned her sentence and conviction, and she is now free. The United States government, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and high level officials are watching whether Sudan honors the court order or regresses into injustice by detaining Meriam and her children once again.”
The spokesman continued, “At this point, we are encouraged to see the U.S. State Department actively helping in this matter. Yet we are troubled to see the delay by the Sudanese authorities in detaining Meriam and her family. As long as the Sudanese authorities are blocking Meriam’s freedom of movement, the United States needs to make clear that it will hold Sudan accountable for the safety of Meriam and her family.”
Another lawyer for Ibrahim told media Monday that Ibrahim, 27, had been reunited with her husband and family Monday night after being released from custody in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa El-Nour, said she was freed when an appeals court found that an initial decision that condemned her was in error.
She had been convicted in the Muslim nation of apostasy and sentenced to die by hanging.
While the stunning news of her release was welcomed by activists, concern for her well-being remains.
“We now pray and work towards Meriam and her two American children being granted legal status in the United States. We are an exceptional nation and must continue to protect religious freedom here and abroad,” said Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America.
“We are so grateful for today’s decision. If Meriam Ibrahim’s verdict had not been overturned, she would have faced a punishment of 100 lashes and execution by hanging simply because she was charged with converting to Christianity,” Nance said.
Nance said Meriam’s Christian American husband, Daniel Wani, recalled how she was forced to give birth in prison with her legs were chained after she refused to renounce her Christian faith during a four-day “grace period.”
Nance ‘s group had joined in a rally at the White House to demand that the Obama administration act on her behalf.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted: “I want to thank Sudanese Ambassador Maowia Khalid for his willingness to hear the case for freeing #MeriamIbrahim.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued a statement: “Greatly encouraged by reports that Meraim Ibrahim and her babies will be freed. Keep praying for their safe arrival in the United States and continue to speak out for religious liberty across the globe.”
Ibrahim had spent six months in a Sudanese prison with her 21-month-old son and, after she was born, her daughter.
More than 53,000 people have signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States.
Perkins said he remains “deeply concerned about Meriam’s safety now that she has been released,” citing threats by her half-brother, who reportedly told media that he believes she should be killed.
WND previously reported that the plight of such Christians even attracted the attention of actor George Clooney, who called on the U.S. to take action against the Muslim government in Sudan that is “repressing Christians.”
“Join us in pressing for the deployment of a senior U.S. official to work fulltime on Sudan’s peace process with a small team of experts and diplomats to support African and U.N. mediators,” he asked in commentary at Vice.com headlined “Sudan’s Silent Suffering Is Getting Worse.”
Clooney contends the U.S. certainly can “rebuild its influence” in Sudan, “and the best way to do that is through the regime’s wallet.”
“The U.S. government must give the Treasury Department the resources it needs to follow the money enabling mass atrocities, and enforce sanctions against complicit actors,” he says.
“Short of military intervention, which is off the table, going after the stolen wealth of the regime’s elite will grab their attention like no other action,” he says in the commentary co-authored by John Prendergast.
The commentary was published a day before a Washington rally Thursday in which Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also said it’s time to act in Sudan.
Cruz told more than a hundred assembled recently,” Let us unite people across the world to release Meriam.”
Clooney and Prendergast said the Sudanese government, “under the cover of darkness,” is reviving and intensifying “its genocidal strategy in the main war zones of Sudan.”
“No media is allowed. The few aid organizations still permitted to operate there are under strict agreement to do so quietly. And the United Nations mission in Darfur has recently been implicated in a broad institutional cover-up of both the scale of devastation, and of the Sudan government’s direct role in creating the crisis,” they write.
“More than 2.5 million people have already perished in various conflicts in Sudan over the last two decades. It is almost unfathomable that things could get worse, yet today the scale of violence is rising to unprecedented levels.”
Citing prior terror threats, they note the Janjaweed militias attained international notoriety at the height of the Darfur genocide a decade ago.
“The Janjaweed are back with a vengeance under the banner of the regime’s newly launched Rapid Support Forces. These forces are better equipped, centrally commanded, and fully integrated into the state’s security apparatus, with legal immunity from prosecution. This time, Sudan’s regime isn’t even bothering to pretend the Janjaweed 2.0 is not their responsibility.”
They explain the goal of Sudan’s elite is “to maintain power and acquire wealth by any means necessary.”
The regime’s targets include “Muslims who are not aligned with the ruling party’s vision of Islam” and well as Christians.
And there is a reason for America to act.
“It relates to U.S. national interests. First, if you care about terrorism, Sudan formerly provided sanctuary to [Osama] bin Laden and has recently deepened its links to the regime in Iran,” they write.
“If you care about China-U.S. relations, Sudan provides a huge opportunity for Sino-American cooperation on peace efforts there, given China’s $10 billion investment in Sudan’s oil industry. If you care about religious persecution, Sudan is attacking Muslims who are not aligned with the ruling party’s vision of Islam, and the regime is repressing Christians in Khartoum. And if you care about basic human rights, famine threatens parts of Sudan because the regime is blocking humanitarian aid,” they write.
Joshua Ely, Andrew Ireland, Joshua Noble are interns for WND.