Kerry Urges Sudan: Respect Mariam Ibrahim's 'Freedom of Religion'

By Penny Starr | June 18, 2014 | 5:17 PM EDT

Daniel Wani and Mariam Ibrahim (Photo/Gabriel Wani)

( – Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a statement calling on the government of Sudan to respect the freedom of religion of Mariam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death last month for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

Ibrahim has been imprisoned in Sudan with her 20-month-old son and her infant daughter, who was born in prison.

Christian groups around the world have been working to gain her release, including asking Secretary Kerry to take action.

On Friday, Kerry issued a statement about Ibriham that made no mention of her husband Daniel Wani, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and the father of the couple's two children.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the conviction and continued imprisonment of Ms. Mariam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag,” Kerry said in the statement.

Kerry then went on to express his support for Sudan and its people.

Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

“Sudan’s journey has long been a struggle, and back when I was still a United States Senator, I traveled to the region many times to help find greater understanding and hope for a different kind of future,” Kerry said. “As Secretary, I remain deeply committed to the country and its people.

“That is one of the reasons we are all so concerned about the travails of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag,” Kerry said.

While Kerry noted that Ibriham has two very young children in prison with her, he did not mention that her husband and children, Martin and Maya, are U.S. citizens, and did not demand that she and her children be released or that Ibriham can have asylum in the United States.

“Ms. Ishag is the mother of two young children,” Kerry said. “She and the children should be reunited at home with her family rather than held in prison on charges of apostasy.”

Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir (AP Photo)

“I urge the Sudanese judiciary and government to respect Ms. Ishag’s fundamental right to freedom of religion,” Kerry said. “I also urge Sudan to repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 Interim Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Such actions would help to demonstrate to the Sudanese people that their government intends to respect their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights,” Kerry said.

The Sudanese government has said that Ibriham can live for two years to nurse her daughter before the sentences of lashings and death by hanging will be carried out.