By Kim Glovas and Justin Udo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for practicing Christianity landed this afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport on her way to her new home in the United States.
Meriam Ibrahim was arrested in February and sentenced to death on May 15th for practicing Christianity and refusing to renounce her faith. The penalty for that in Sudan is death by hanging.
She was also charged with adultery for marrying a Christian, which carries a punishment of one hundred lashes.
Ibrahim was freed in June after an international furor, but as the family was boarding a plane to the US, they were arrested for allegedly forging travel documents. That charge was eventually dropped, and they were allowed to fly to Rome two days later, where she had an audience with Pope Francis.
Ibrahim says she was raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother as a Christian, and that her Muslim father left when she was six.
Her itinerary included the flight from Rome to Philadelphia, then another flight tonight to Manchester, NH, where the family plans to live.
Ibrahim and her husband, Daniel Wanni, have two children — Martin, who is almost two, and Maya, who was born in prison while Ibrahim was shackled to a prison cot.
Wanni has dual citizenship in South Sudan and the US.
Mayor Michael Nutter was on hand to greet the 26-year-old, her husband and two children as they briefly stopped in Philadelphia.
“She expressed that she was very grateful to be in Philadelphia. She feels significant warmth from the city,” Nutter said.
He also extended a special invitation for them to return next year –he invited Ibrahim to speak at the 2015 World Meeting of Families being held in Philadelphia.
“Meriam Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter. I’m hopeful that she can come and talk about family and strength of family at the World Meeting of Families,” Nutter said. “I presented her with a Liberty Bell. Her face lit up, she immediately understood what that was about.”