A “We the People” petition drive has been launched on the White House website urging the Obama administration to take action on behalf of a Sudanese woman awaiting execution for the “crime” of converting from Islam to Christianity.
Meriam Ibrahim, whose husband in an American citizen, is in a prison in Khartoum with her toddler and a newborn baby, who was born in captivity.
In a mass email, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commended Ibrahim for standing strong in her faith and urged American citizens to sign the petition, which his organization submitted.
If the petition receives 100,000 signatures by June 27, the White House, according to its rules, will be forced to respond.
“As the days of her death-row imprisonment for her faith tick by, Dr. Meriam Ibrahim’s faith has not wavered,” Perkins wrote.”Sentenced to be hanged for converting to Christianity, and ‘illegally’ marrying a Christian man, Meriam awaits execution in a Sudanese prison with her toddler and days-old newborn, both of whom are eligible to apply for American citizenship.”
He noted that prison is deadly for children.
“The prison is a dangerous place for its convicted captives, but for children, the peril of living in these conditions is even greater,” he said. “With a reported infant mortality rate of one child per day, the life of Meriam’s newborn daughter is easily at risk.”
Travis Weber, the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty director, said the petition is one way to get Americans to speak out and put pressure on the government for Ibrahim’s release.
“We expect that with enough noise from the American people expressing outrage about this blatant human rights violation, the administration will be forced to act and take a stronger public stance. It’s shameful that the British prime minister has made a stronger statement on this situation than President Obama, and Meriam Ibrahim does not even have the connections to the U.K. that she has to the United States,” Weber said.
Religious Freedom Coalition Chairman William Murray said that to complicate the case, the U.S. State Department wants DNA evidence proving Wani is the father of the two children.
Murray compared the Obama administration’s handling of the case to its release Saturday of five Taliban leaders in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is accused of desertion by members of his former unit.
“The mother of those children, Merriam Ibrahim, who is married to an American citizen, has been sentenced to death for the crime of refusing to renounce her Christian faith,” he said. “Unless the defense in handling the two cases is biased, the only argument that can be made in favor of the Obama administration’s actions differing in the two cases is stupidity.”
FRC is working with the American Center for Law and Justice on Ibrahim’s case.
ACLJ’s Director of Government Affairs Nathaniel Bennett said Sudan is aware of the international outrage.
“Sudan is scrambling to save face because of the significant international outcry on behalf of Meriam. However, we will not rest until all charges against Meriam are dropped, she is released unconditionally along with her children and we are assured that she is safe from extrajudicial retribution,” Bennett said.
Cameron Thomas, Sub-Saharan Africa analyst for the Christian human-rights group International Christian Concern, said his organization has been following Ibrahim’s case and supports any effort to free her.
“ICC has joined several others in releasing petitions to demand Meriam’s immediate and unconditional release and is amazed by the fact that in less than two weeks of coverage by the mainstream media, more than 1 million signatures have been gathered on Meriam’s behalf,” Thomas said.
Weber said the federal government should take an interest in any U.S. civilian imprisoned overseas.
“While it is certainly understandable for the U.S. government and, indeed, any American, to want to make sure no soldier is left behind on the battlefield, it should go without saying that such sentiments also apply to U.S. citizens detained overseas. Meriam’s two children currently languishing in jail with her are in all likelihood U.S. citizens – they just need to be verified as such,” Weber said.
Weber added that Ibrahim’s husband is a U.S. citizen but is having legal issues regarding his wife and says the response from the U.S. government is disappointing.
“Meriam’s husband is a U.S. citizen. Considering the U.S. connections to this case and the deplorable human rights violations taken against U.S. citizens (and a spouse of a U.S. citizen), the low profile taken by our own government in this case is incredible,” he said.
“In addition, Meriam’s husband, Daniel, applied for a spousal visa for Meriam in 2011. It has not yet been granted. Moreover, a birth certificate for at least one of the children has been provided to U.S. officials in Sudan.”
He said that the U.S. government request to prove by DNA that the child belongs to Daniel “may be permissible,” but “it hardly seems reasonable in light of all the circumstances of this case.”
Weber said Daniel and Meriam have made reasonable efforts in requesting U.S. assistance.
“It appears that U.S. officials have not even met with Meriam and Daniel’s Sudanese attorneys from the Justice Center in Sudan,” Weber said.
A May 31 report said a Sudanese court would free Ibrahim.
However, a Sudanese official issued a June 2 statement saying that the government has the authority to release Ibrahim but would not do so.
Thomas said the Sudanese government’s apparent reversal is distressing.
“Though ICC is disappointed by Sudan’s recent decision to back down from its intention to release Meriam, we continue to be amazed by the outpouring of international outrage over her being sentenced to death for her Christian faith,” he said.
Thomas added that ICC is also lobbying Congress.
“ICC continues to work with congressional offices to aid Capitol Hill in taking decisive action to see to Meriam’s release. We continue to encourage believers the world over to pray for Meriam, her 20-month-old son Martin, newborn daughter Maya and husband, Mr. Daniel Wani,” Thomas said.
WND reported in May that a Sudanese judge upheld the death sentence given to Meriam Ibrahim, claiming that the court correctly ruled that Ibrahim had illegally converted to Christianity.
The Embassy of Sudan in the U.S. recently posted a Web statement saying that Ibrahim’s religious and political liberties are not being denied. The embassy says the case is a “legal” issue, focusing on Ibrahim’s name change.
“The official records of the Government of Sudan indicate that the real name of the lady mentioned in this case as Mariam Ibrahim is actually Abrar Elhadi Muhammad Abdallah Abugadeen and there is no official record (that) shows that her name was changed to Mariam Ibrahim Yahia,” the embassy press release stated.
The embassy further claims that Ibrahim’s case has been thoroughly heard and that her legal rights are being upheld.
Islam analyst Pamela Geller said the Obama White House’s silence on the Ibrahim issue is no surprise.
“Obama won’t touch this. He never speaks out about anything that might reflect negatively on Islam,” she said. “Everything that is happening to her is in accord with Islamic law, and so the International Criminal Court won’t touch it either: to do so would be tantamount to criminalizing Shariah.”