The Sudanese wife of a Manchester man has been arrested again, charged with two criminal counts in connection with trying to leave the country two days ago, news media and the State Department reported.
The arrest is the latest in a fast-moving situation for Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, who was detained on Tuesday while trying to fly out of Sudan with her husband, Manchester resident Daniel Wani, and their two children.
On Monday, Ibrahim, who is 27, was freed from a Sudanese jail, after an appeals court lifted a death sentence against her. She had been jailed for alleged violations of Sharia law that included apostasy, because of her conversion to Christianity, and adultery, for marrying a Christian.
On Wednesday, the State Department updated earlier statements and acknowledged Sudanese police had arrested Ibrahim and she was in police custody while issues related to travel documents are sorted out.
Embassy staff have been in frequent contact with the family and provide them with supplies, said deputy State Department spokesman Marie Harf. Wani, she said, appears to not be under arrest but is staying with his wife.
“The Government of Sudan has assured us of their – the family’s – safety. Obviously, that’s of utmost importance to us,” Harf said.
She said the charges d’affairs of the American embassy has met with the Sudanese foreign ministry over the detention. The bottom line, Harf said, is that the family needs to depart Sudan as swiftly as possible and be kept safe.
Ibrahim’s legal team told CNN that she is accused of traveling with falsified documents and giving false information. Ibrahim has a U.S. visa and was headed to the United States with her family, her legal team said.
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, CNN reported.
“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 on its media Facebook page early Wednesday.
In a message posted on its website, the Sudanese embassy in the United States said Ibrahim is free to leave the country, but she must do so legally.
“It is regrettable and disturbing that some elements attempted to bring Meriam to U.S by issuing her an entry visa on a fraudulent traveling document obtained from a foreign country,” the message reads.
The message called the action inexcusable and unnecessary, and a violation of both Sudanese and U.S. law.
“The same legal system that protects her right and secures her freedom is capable of guaranteeing her right to leave the country whenever the legal procedure comes to an end,” the message reads. The statement refers to Ibrahim by her Muslim name – Abrar Hadi Mohammed Abdullah - on first reference.
The family -- which includes their newborn daughter and a son under the age of 2 -- hoped to fly out of Khartoum on Tuesday. Initial reports said the family was detained. But later in the day, the U.S. State Department insisted they had been released. Harf said Wednesday they were subsequently taken to a police station for futher questioning, and Ibrahim was arrested.
Before her release Monday, Ibrahim had been convicted of apostasy — converting from Islam — and was sentenced to hang despite maintaining all along she had been raised as a Christian.
International pressure mounted on Sudan since news surfaced that Ibrahim, who was eight months pregnant at the time.
Gabriel and Daniel Wani fled Sudan in 1998 and became U.S. citizens in 2005.