Unanimous Senate Tells Sudan: Immediately Release Meriam and Her Children

Terence P. Jeffrey | June 4, 2014 | 5:45pm EDT
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.) at a press conference in 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - In an act of unmitigated bipartisanship, all Republicans and all Democrats in the U.S. Senate joined together on Tuesday evening to unanimously approve a resolution demanding the “immediate and unconditional release” of Meriam Ibrahim and her two children from the Sudanese prison where they are being held because Meriam refuses to renounce her Christian faith.

Ibrahim, the wife of U.S. citizen Daniel Wani, has been incarcerated at the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison along with the couple’s 20-month-old son, Martin, and 1-week old daughter, Maya. She currently faces a death sentence.

Meriam and Daniel, who is also a Christian, were married at a Christian church in Sudan in December 2011.

Meriam’s father was a Muslim, but her mother was a Christian. The father reportedly abandoned the family when Meriam was six, and the mother raised her as a Christian.

On May 15, a Sudanese court convicted Ibrahim of "apostasy" and "adultery." The court said she was guilty of “apostasy” because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and become a Muslim like her father. The court said she was guilty of “adultery” because of her relationship with her own husband. Sudan refuses to recognize the marriage of a Christian man to a Muslim women.

Ibrahim's lawyers in Sudan have appealed her case, and the court has said she can nurse her newborn baby (born in the prison last week) until the girl is two years old. At that point, if Ibrahim does not win an appeal--or if pressure from the U.S. and other nations does not persuade Sudan to release her--she will be hanged.

“A Sudanese court affirmed a sentence of death by hanging for 27-year-old Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a Christian woman accused of apostasy for refusing to recant her Christian faith, and ordered her to receive 100 lashes for adultery because under Sudan’s Shari’ah law such inter-religious marriages are illegal,” says the resolution unanimously approved by the Senate.

“The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Government of Sudan has acceded, provides that ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” says the resolution.

“The Senate condemns the charge of apostasy and death sentence of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and calls for immediate and unconditional release of her and her children,” says the resolution.

The resolution was initially sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.); Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.), who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Chris Coons (D.-Del.), who is the chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs; and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death in Sudan for apostasy, is married to U.S. citizen Daniel Wani. (Photo: Gabriel Wani/Facebook)

“Imprisoning a woman for simply refusing to recant her faith is a deplorable act that speaks to the kind of religious intolerance that, while blatantly and ignorantly continues to exist today, has no place in the world,” Rubio said.

“While the Senate made strides in its commitment to religious freedom, Ms. Ibrahim is still in the fight of her life,” Rubio said. “The world is watching as we await the decision of the Sudanese court, and today’s passage is a testament to our obligation to Ms. Ibrahim and her young family.”

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for coming together to call for the unconditional release of Ms. Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman currently imprisoned for peacefully practicing her faith,” said Inhofe. “I hope this resolution will continue to put pressure on the government of Sudan to recognize the importance of religious freedom and incorporate this foundational value into the country's new constitution.”

On Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Sudan to release Ibrahim and called Sudan's treatment of her “barabaric."

The White House and State Department have issued statements condemning Ibrahim’s conviction and imprisonment, but, so far, neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Kerry have personally spoken out about Sudan's imprisonment of the wife and children of a U.S. citizen.

Until Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, signed a Privacy Act waiver on Monday, the State Department declined to admit that he was a U.S. citizen. However, even after the State Department admitted on Monday that Wani is indeed a U.S. citizen, it would not admit that his two children, imprisoned with his wife in Sudan, are also U.S. citizens.

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