Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir returns home after fleeing South Africa, pre-empting a court ruling over an international warrant for his arrest.
Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
The Pretoria High Court was due to decide whether Omar al-Bashir should be handed over to the ICC which charged him with the crimes.
Omar al-Bashir was in Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) summit.
A news conference will be held in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, upon his arrival.
On June 14, a judge barred Omar al-Bashir from leaving until the arrest application had been considered.
Omar al-Bashir is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict.
The UN says that about 300,000 people in Sudan have died and more than two million have fled their homes since fighting began in 2003.
Government forces and allied Arab militias are accused of targeting black African civilians in the fight against the rebels.
At the hearing at the Pretoria High Court, the lawyer representing the South African government says Omar al-Bashir’s name was not on the list of passengers who took off earlier.
On June 15, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ICC’s warrant for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir must be implemented by countries who have signed up to the court’s statutes.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest anyone charged by the court. Before the summit, the ICC issued a press statement urging the South African government “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrant”.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, the 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 Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court earlier this year.
Meriam 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.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag arrived in New Hampshire on Thursday evening with her American husband and her children
Meriam 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, Michael 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.
Michael Nutter presented Meriam Ibrahim with a small replica of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence.
Her next stop was Manchester, and there were about 40 relatives and supporters at the airport to greet her.
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.
Meriam 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 Meriam 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, Meriam Ibrahim met Pope Francis, who “thanked her for her witness to faith”, according to a Vatican spokesman.
BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations.
As part of the deal, France’s largest bank will plead guilty to two criminal charges of breaking US sanctions against trade with Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
The bank will also be prevented from clearing certain transactions in US dollars for one year from the start of 2015.
The settlement is the largest for such a case in US history.
“Between 2004 and 2012, BNP engaged in a complex and pervasive scheme to illegally move billions through the US financial system,” said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a press conference.
In doing so, BNP Paribas “deliberately and repeatedly violated longstanding US sanctions”, he said.
Eric Holder added that he hoped the settlement would serve as a warning to other companies that did business with the US that “illegal conduct will simply not be tolerated”.
BNP Paribas has agreed to a record $9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over allegations of sanctions violations (photo Euronews)
As part of its agreement with US authorities, BNP agreed to fire and not re-hire 13 individuals who were associated with the sanctions violations.
BNP said as a result of the fine it would take an “exceptional charge” of 5.8 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in the second quarter of this year.
It said this was on top of the $1.1 billion it had already set aside to cover the cost of the US penalties.
However it said it expected “no impact on its operational or business capabilities”, and said it would post “solid results” for the second quarter.
BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said resolving the issue was “an important step forward” for the bank.
“We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement,” he added.
In a conference call on Tuesday morning, Jean-Laurent Bonnafe explained that during the year in which the bank was banned from dollar clearing – converting payments from foreign currencies into US dollars – it would engage a third party to carry out the transactions.
Jean-Laurent Bonnafe added that as part of the settlement BNP Paribas would be able to keep its license to operate in the US.
The Swiss financial regulator, FINMA, also announced that it had closed its investigation into BNP Paribas operations in the country, following the US authorities’ decision.
FINMA said in a statement that BNP Paribas had “persistently and seriously violated its duty to identify, limit and monitor the inherent risks” relating to foreign transactions.
Shares in BNP Paribas rose more than 3% in morning trading, following assurances that the bank could weather the $9 billion fine.
France has been pressing the US over the size of the fine, which almost equals BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about 8.2 billion euros ($11.2 billion).
French banking giant BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules, reports suggest.
The bank will also, unusually, admit guilt, Financial Times and The New York Times reported.
According to the Wall Street Journal, BNP plans to slash its dividends and issue billions of euros of bonds to pay the fine.
The bank is accused of breaking sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
This is alleged to have taken place between 2002 and 2009.
BNP Paribas has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for allegedly violating US sanctions rules
The reported size of the fine could almost wipe out BNP’s entire 2013 pre-tax income of about $11.2 billion.
In April, BNP Paribas said it had set aside $1.1 billion to cover the cost of US penalties, but warned that the “amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision”.
Earlier this month, one of the EU’s top officials intervened in the controversy.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said any penalty on the giant French bank must be “fair and objective”. Reports at the time suggested the fine would be in the region of $10 billion.
France’s President Francois Hollande has raised the matter with President Barack Obama, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently warned that such a fine could hurt EU-US trade treaty talks.
As part of the deal with US authorities, BNP may be suspended from converting foreign currencies into dollars, reports suggest, which would hit its ability to operate in international wholesale banking markets.
US authorities are keen to make an announcement on the settlement on Monday afternoon.
Mariam Ibrahim, whose death sentence for renouncing Islam was overturned in Sudan, has been released from jail again, after she was detained at Khartoum airport on Tuesday.
Mariam Ibrahim’s lawyer, Muhannad Mustafa, said that she was currently in the US embassy with her family.
She had been detained on charges of falsifying ID documents.
Mariam Ibrahim was first released on June 23 when an appeals court lifted her death sentence for renouncing Islam.
Her sentencing in May to hang for apostasy sparked an outcry at home and around the world.
Mariam Ibrahim has been charged with forgery relating to the South Sudanese travel document she was carrying
Mariam Ibrahim, 27, had been held at a police station in the capital, since Tuesday, when she was prevented from leaving the country along with her husband, Daniel Wani, and their two children.
Daniel Wani is a Christian from South Sudan and is a US citizen.
She had reportedly planned to travel to the US with her family.
According to Reuters news agency, quoting her lawyer, Mariam Ibrahim was released on the condition that she remains in Sudan.
“Mariam was released after a guarantor was found, but, of course, she would not be able to leave the country,” Muhannad Mustafa said.
Asked about her plans following her release, she said: “I will leave it to God. I didn’t even have a chance to see my family after I got out of prison.”
Mariam Ibrahim has been charged with forgery relating to the South Sudanese travel document she was carrying, and accused of providing false information.
South Sudan’s embassy in Khartoum says the emergency travel documents were issued by the South Sudan authorities and are genuine.
However, Sudanese officials say she should have used a Sudanese passport and on Wednesday Sudan’s foreign ministry summoned the US and South Sudan charges d’affaires over the issue.
The ministry criticized South Sudan for issuing travel documents “despite their knowledge that she is a Sudanese national” and condemned the US for trying to help the woman leave Sudan using an “illegal [false] travel document”, the Suna news agency reports.
Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Authority are reported to have lodged the complaint against Mariam Ibrahim.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, the Sudanese woman awaiting the death penalty for abandoning her religious faith, has given birth in jail near Khartoum, her lawyer has said.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag married a Christian man and was sentenced to hang for apostasy earlier this month after refusing to renounce Christianity.
The woman is allowed to nurse her baby girl for two years before the sentence is carried out.
Born to a Muslim father, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was convicted by a Sharia court.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag married a Christian man and was sentenced to hang for apostasy earlier this month after refusing to renounce Christianity
Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was also convicted of adultery on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan’s version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.
For this the judge sentenced her to 100 lashes, which will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.
According to Amnesty International, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim.
Lawyer Elshareef Ali said his 27-year-old client had given birth to a baby girl in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a hospital wing at the prison.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag also has her 20-month-old son with her as he has been held with her in prison since late February, he said.
Correspondents say death sentences are rarely carried out in Sudan.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag’s legal team lodged an appeal on May 22 as Elshreef Ali says the verdict contravenes the constitution’s enshrining of freedom of faith, the Bloomberg news agency reports.
Western embassies and rights groups have urged Sudan to respect the right of the woman to choose her religion.
A Sudanese woman has been sentenced to hang for apostasy – leaving Islam – after she married a Christian man.
Amnesty International condemned the sentence, handed down by a judge in Khartoum, as “appalling and abhorrent”.
Local media report the sentence on Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, who is eight months’ pregnant, would not be carried out for two years after she had given birth.
Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” the judge told the woman, AFP reports.
Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law (photo AFP)
Western embassies and rights groups had urged Sudan to respect the right of the pregnant woman to choose her religion.
The judge also sentenced the woman to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery – because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law.
This will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes, AFP reports.
Then she calmly told the judge: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
Amnesty International said Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.
In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was convicted of adultery on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan’s version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.
The woman was originally sentenced to death on Sunday but given until Thursday to return to Islam.
There were small groups of protesters outside the court – both her supporters and those who back the punishment.
About 50 people chanting “No to executing Meriam” were confronted by a smaller group who supported the verdict, but there was no violence.
Amnesty’s Sudan researcher Manar Idriss condemned the punishments, saying apostasy and adultery should not be considered crimes.
“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent,” he said.
Death sentences are rarely carried out in Sudan.
Her lawyers plan an appeal to a higher court to get the sentence overturned.
On Tuesday, the embassies of the US, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” about the case and urging Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, AFP says.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim, Amnesty said.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced a decision to free all political prisoners in the country.
In a speech at the opening of parliament, Omar al- Bashir also said the government was committed to a “national dialogue” with all groups.
It was not immediately clear how many prisoners would be released under the announcement.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced a decision to free all political prisoners in the country
The move comes as tensions ease in Sudan amid improving relations with neighboring South Sudan.
Omar al-Bashir said Sudan had now “guaranteed the atmosphere for freedoms and the safeguarding of the freedom of expression of individuals and groups”.
“Today, we announce a decision to free all the political prisoners and renew our commitment to all political powers about dialogue,” the president said, without giving further details.
The government would continue to communicate with “all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues,” he said.
Omar al-Bashir’s announcement was welcomed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said it hoped it would lead to an end to arbitrary detentions and torture under Sudan’s strict national security laws.
“There is a chronic pattern of human rights abuse in Sudan,” said HRW’s Sudan researcher Jehanne Henry.
She said the organization heard of cases every month where “people perceived to have political opinions not in keeping with those of the government” were detained.
But analysts said it was unclear how the government would define political prisoners, and whether the release would include rebel fighters and government officials currently on trial for plotting a coup.
Sudan has been facing a heightened security situation since South Sudan became independent in 2011.
Tension between the new neighbors has been strained, with rebellions breaking out on either side of the border and a dispute over oil which escalated to the brink of war in April.
However, in September the leaders of both nations signed a deal, mediated by the African Union, to resume oil sales and set up a demilitarized buffer zone.
Last month, Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a coup in 1989, said he would step down at the next election in 2015 because Sudan needed “fresh blood”.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says Sudan has “declared war” on his country, following weeks of fighting along their common border.
President Salva Kiir was speaking in China, which is a major buyer of oil from both countries, but has long been an ally of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.
Meanwhile, Sudanese warplanes conducted multiple bombing raids against Southern border regions in the early morning.
The raids followed a fatal bombing near the border town of Bentiu on Monday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, in which a market was bombed, killing at least one person and injuring many others.
The latest attacks hit the towns of Panakwatch and Lalop, and the Teshwin border post, the AFP news agency reported.
South Sudan became independent last year, following decades of conflict.
There have been tense relations since then, primarily over the division of oil reserves and the full definition of borders.
Salva Kiir was speaking as he met Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing, after arriving there on Monday for a five-day visit.
South Sudanese president said his visit came “at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan”.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says Sudan has "declared war" on his country, following weeks of fighting along their common border
Salva Kiir called China one of his country’s “economic and strategic partners”.
Chinese state television quoted Hu Jintao as urging calm and restraint on both Sudans.
Sudan has made no formal declaration of war, but analysts say Salva Kiir is clearly escalating the war of words.
Beijing has urged an end to the recent hostilities, during which Southern forces occupied Sudan’s most important oil field, in the Heglig area, saying it belonged to the South.
South Sudan says its forces withdrew from Heglig after two weeks, but Sudan says it expelled them, killing 1,000 soldiers.
Omar al-Bashir says he will not negotiate with the South and has vowed to continue military action until all Southern troops and their allies are out of Sudan.
On Monday, Ban Ki-moon called on Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir “to stop the slide toward further confrontation and… to return to dialogue as a matter of urgency”.
US President Barack Obama has said both countries “must have the courage” to return to the negotiating table and resolve their differences peacefully.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Tuesday that oil was “the economic lifeline for both countries”.
Liu Weimin added: “To maintain the stability and sustainability of the oil cooperation is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries. It is also consistent with the interests of Chinese enterprises and their partners.
“We hope the oil negotiation between Sudan and South Sudan will make progress and [the two countries] will find a solution that both of them and other sides involved can accept.”
In January, South Sudan shut down oil production, which provides 98% of its revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.
South Sudan took most of the former united Sudan’s oil reserves when it became independent but relies on pipelines to seaports in Sudan to export it.
South Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession in a January 2011 referendum, leading to independence six months later.