|Meriam and Dani arrive home in New Hampshier|
|With tears in his eyes, Dani recounts ordeal|
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Daniel Wani said that he told Meriam Ibrahim: ‘Don’t resist’ when the force dubbed the ‘Agents of Fear’ intercepted them and their two young children at the airport in Sudan’s capital Khartoum.
Daniel said that the experience was 'terrifying' and that they were herded into a room whilst their lawyers were battered and forced to run for their lives. He also revealed that he was initially banned from being at Meriam’s side whilst she gave birth to their baby Maya, two months, inside the prison where she was being held. It was only after he kicked up a fuss that they finally let him in - only to see her shackled to the floor in leg chains as she gave birth.
Daniel spoke out to MailOnline, his first interview at length, after he, Meriam, Maya and their son Martin, two, finally arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire to begin their new life in the US.
Daniel said that the family had been through nearly a year of hell after the case against Meriam began in August last year. She was jailed in September and in May was sentenced to hanging and 100 lashes for adultery and apostasy for marrying Daniel as they are both Christians. Meriam’s father was a Muslim so a strict Islamic judge said she had broken the law and must die.
In a softly spoken but determined voice, Daniel explained that he will need time to recover from the ordeal but that he is ‘so happy’ to be home.
Meriam however will take longer to get over her trauma, despite her astonishing inner strength and grace. She says: ‘Thank you’ when told of the campaigning by MailOnline to free her but seems shy and wary of strangers. Behind her smile is a pain that may never entirely leave her.
Among the most chilling episodes in their ordeal was after Meriam had initially been freed on June 26th - only to be arrested the next day at the airport in Khartoum as they tried to leave. Daniel said that their papers were ‘clean’ but that they were stopped anyway.
He said: ‘We got the papers. We got permission to travel through the VIP area. I don't know why they did that, it’s stupid. They made a mistake and wanted to cover it up and they didn’t have a stop order. When they came to us I said do you have a stop order? They said no and they started to use force, they just threw the lawyers out of the airport, beat them.
‘It was terrifying, secret service personnel, national security. It’s a lot. ‘They took us, when they started to use force against my wife I said to her don’t resist and just go. We had an interview at the airport. We went in. I stayed there five minutes or 10 minutes and I had a number to call somebody and I told them. ‘They had to cover up what they did, making this decision.’
Meriam, 27, a doctor, had been pregnant the entire time she was inside the grim Omdurman Women’s Prison in Khartoum and gave birth to Maya on May 27. Until then Daniel had been denied access to her at all but when he heard his daughter was about to arrive, he demanded to be let him.
He said: ‘They tried to stop me but I wanted to visit her. The day she was born they didn’t allow us to see her because she had the chains on her legs. They were scared that if I went in and saw her give birth in chains I would talk about it. When we went there in the morning they said there’s an order and you can’t see her. After that we went to high level in the prison department to get permission.
‘They tried to say it was an order from high, and I said who? Do you mean the minister of the interior? I managed to get in there for the birth. After that they allowed me in and let me see her twice a week. She was wearing the chains when she gave birth. I kept telling them I wanted to have the birth out of prison, I could take her to the hospital where she gave birth to Martin. At first they said OK then they refused.’
Meriam’s release came after international condemnation from the governments of the UK, the US, Canada and the Netherlands. More than half a million people signed numerous petitions and British Prime Minister David Cameron called her treatment ‘barbaric’. In the end the Italian government, which has good relations with Sudan, brokered a deal under which she would fly to Rome before going on to the US.
They spent a week recouperating in Italy, having the chance to be together as a family under normal conditions for the first time.
Meriam also realised one of her lifelong dreams after she met Pope Francis and he gave her his blessing.
Daniel said that whilst Meriam was still locked up he was angry but kept it inside him so as not to give any of the guards or officials an excuse to treat him badly. He said: ‘Having me there must have helped. From the beginning if I wasn’t there even the media would not know what was going on. They would have just killed her and no-one would have known. Even the police would have beat her.’
The Italians offered to let the family stay in their country permanently but for Daniel, home was always going to be America, where he is a naturalised citizen.
He said: ‘It feels real. It’s good to be home. I was born in Sudan, but I tell people I'm from here (New Hampshire)’.
Daniel’s brother Gabriel said that Daniel and Meriam have been meeting with officials from the State Department who have come up from Washington, D.C. to speak with them. He believes Meriam will be granted leave to remain for the time being with a view to granting her citizenship in the future.
Previous reports on Meriam Ibrahim on this blog