Sudan 'apostasy' woman Meriam Ibrahim arrives in US

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Media caption,

Meriam Ibrahim was greeted by supporters in New Hampshire

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has arrived in the US.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag arrived in New Hampshire on Thursday evening with her American husband and her children.

Welcoming her on a brief stopover in Philadelphia, the city's mayor, Michael Nutter, described her as a "world freedom fighter".

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court earlier this year.

Mrs Ibrahim's father is Muslim so according to Sudan's version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She maintains she was never Muslim having been raised by her Christian mother.

Mrs Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to Manchester, New Hampshire, where her husband has relatives and the family hope to settle.

While in Philadelphia, Mr Nutter said people would remember her just like "others who stood up so we could be free".

He compared her to Rosa Parks, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama.

And he presented Mrs Ibrahim with a small replica of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mrs Ibrahim's husband is next to her on the left, in this family photo
Image source, European Photopress Agency
Image caption,
She left Rome earlier on Thursday

Her next stop was Manchester, and there were about 40 relatives and supporters at the airport to greet her, some of them chanting "Long Live America", says the BBC's Gringo Wotshela, who was at the scene.

He said her husband said a few words, in which he thanked the US government for its strong stance, the New Hampshire senators who worked hard to arrange her asylum and the people of Sudan for their support.

Mrs Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.

Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for renouncing one's faith.

Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June although she was initially stopped from leaving the country and the family took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum.

When in Rome, she met the Pope, who "thanked her for her witness to faith", according to a Vatican spokesman.

Media caption,

Mrs Ibrahim and her family meet Pope Francis at his Vatican residence