State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said today that she doesn’t know if they’ve yet received a letter sent by senators four days ago asking Secretary of State John Kerry to get involved in the case of a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman about to be flogged and executed.
A Thursday deadline passed for Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam, so she is now on death row in Khartoum with an additional sentence of 100 lashes. The 27-year-old doctor, eight months pregnant with her second child, is shackled in prison with her 20-month-old son.
In 2012, she married Dr. Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese-born U.S. citizen in Khartoum; she was raised solely by her Christian Ethiopian Orthodox mother after her Muslim Sudanese father left when she was young.
“We request your immediate action and full diplomatic engagement to offer Meriam political asylum and to secure her and her son’s safe release,” Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) wrote in an urgent letter to Kerry on Friday.
“We also urge you and President Obama to reappoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, whose primary purpose is to monitor, prevent, and respond to this exact type of incident,” the senators added. The post has been vacant for five months.
“Thank you for your attention to this letter, and we respectfully request a prompt response regarding the actions taken by the Department of State to secure Meriam’s freedom,” Ayotte and Blunt wrote.
“I’m aware of the letter. I’m not sure if we’ve received it yet,” Psaki told reporters when asked of the case at today’s briefing. “Sometimes, it’s announced before it’s received, as you know. DHS would have oversight of that. Of course, we don’t speculate on that, and neither does DHS, in terms of seekers or cases or anything along those lines.”
When asked if Washington has been in touch with Sudanese authorities about the case, Psaki replied, “We have been closely monitoring, responding to events in this case. We have joined with the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands in expressing our concerns. I think they are clear on our concerns. I don’t have any specific readouts of direct contact, but we have been expressing our concerns in a broad means of — of manners.”
She said even though the condemned woman’s husband is an American, that doesn’t mean she’d get any consular rights.
“Broadly speaking, that’s not typically how it works. We have seen reports identifying him as a U.S. citizen,” Psaki said. “We don’t have any privacy act waivers, so I don’t have anymore details I can share with you.”
“…But certainly, this is a horrific case and that’s why everybody is so concerned about it.”
The administration has previously said it is “deeply disturbed” by the sentence.
Ibrahim’s brother-in-law, Gabriel Wani, told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Friday that his brother is trying to appeal the case but feels quite helpless.
“He don’t know what to do,” Gabriel Wani said. “He tried before a couple times to talk to the embassy to help him out with the situation. Now the embassy tries to act and everything is too late.”
Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen since 2005, had gone to Khartoum last summer to pave the way for attaining residency for his wife and child in New Hampshire.
“We are praying for a miracle,” Gabriel Wani said.