Blunt on Christian Facing Martyrdom in Sudan:‘She Is Wife of U.S. Citizen’

Terence P. Jeffrey | May 21, 2014 | 6:43pm EDT
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Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.)

( - Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R.-N.H.) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson today flatly asserting that Meriam Ibrahim, who is eight months pregnant and who is imprisoned in Sudan with her 20-month-old son where she awaits martyrdom for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, is in fact the wife of an American citizen.

On Monday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki would not affirm that Ibrahim's husband was a U.S. citizen when directly asked about it by

“As you are aware, after refusing to recant her Christian faith, Meriam was sentenced to death by hanging in a Sudanese court last week,” Blunt and Ayotte wrote in the letter to Kerry and Johnson. “Meriam, 27, is currently 8-months pregnant and has been imprisoned along with her 20-month-old son since February.

“She is the wife of U.S. Citizen Daniel Wani,” the senators said.

At Monday’s State Department press briefing, asked spokesperson Jen Psaki about a report in the Morning Star News that said State Department officials at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum had told Daniel Wani he would have to provide DNA evidence to prove he was the father of the 20-month-old boy imprisoned with his wife before the department would help him.

That news report quoted Wani as saying: “I provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate and doors were closed on his face. … I’ve tried to apply for papers to travel to the USA with my wife and child, but the American Embassy in Sudan did not help me. My son is an American citizen living in a difficult situation in prison.”

In light of this, asked Psaki Monday: “First, is Meriam Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen? And is that 20-month-old boy in prison, by virtue of being his son, also a U.S. citizen?”

“Well, I don’t have any more details on this than what [is in] the statement the White House put out,” Psaki said. “Typically we don’t confirm those type of details, but I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to share.”

On Monday afternoon, after the briefing, sent a series of follow-up questions to the State Department press office. They included:Is Meriam Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen?

By Wednesday evening, the State Department had not responded.

After Sen. Blunt’s office put out a press release late Wednesday afternoon on his and Sen. Ayotte’s letter to Secretaries Kerry and Johnson, inquired by phone and email with the State Department press office: Does the State Department agree that Daniel Wani is a U.S. citizen and that Meriam Ibrahim is his wife?

The State Department acknowledged receiving the question but could not immediately respond.

Senators Blunt and Ayotte had sent an earlier letter about Meriam Ibrahim to Secretary Kerry on Friday, May 16. According to a statement Blunt made today at a press briefing on Capitol Hill, the State Department acknowledged receiving the letter the same day Blunt and Ayotte sent it.

“We write to urge your full attention to the outrageous Sudanese court ruling that sentenced Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for her religious beliefs,” Blunt and Ayotte said in that initial letter. “We request your immediate action and full diplomatic engagement to offer Meriam political asylum and to secure her and her son’s safe release.”

Four days later, at Tuesday’s State Department briefing, when a reporter asked Psaki about this letter, she said she was not sure if the State Department had received it yet.

“I’m wondering if you have any update on the letter that was sent by Senators Blunt and Ayotte to Secretary Kerry specifically asking for asylum to be considered and possibly granted. Is that under review?” a reporter asked.

“I’m aware of the letter,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure if we’ve received it yet. Sometimes it’s announced before it’s received, as you know.”

Psaki also said that the Department of Homeland Security, not the State Department, had jurisdiction over granting political asylum.

Last week, both the State Department and White House put out statements expressing outrage at the death sentence meted out to Meriam Ibrahim for refusing to renounce her faith. But the administration has not acknowledged in any of these statements or briefings that Meriam Ibrahim is the wife of a U.S. citizen, or that the 20-month-old toddler imprisoned with her is the son of a U.S. citizen, or that the unborn child in her womb--just days or weeks from its birth--is also the child of a U.S. citizen.

“To date, none of the statements issued by the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum have mentioned that Daniel Wani is a U.S. citizen, and we are concerned that questions about the citizenship of Meriam’s son, Martin, and her unborn child are preventing needed high-level engagement from the Departments,” Blunt and Ayotte said in the letter they sent today to Kerry and Johnson.

“Yesterday at the State Department they were asked if they received a letter from Sen. Ayotte and I on Meriam Ibrahim, who is being held in prison in Sudan, and, really, they had no idea--even though they had the letter for four days and we got the receipt that they had the letter for four days,” Blunt said at a press briefing today.

“The problem is nobody is responsible,” said Blunt. “One of her sentences in Sudan is to be flogged for marrying a non-Muslim and the second, after they flog her, is to hang her for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. We don’t seem to be concerned about that. She and her toddler son are in a prison cell right now waiting for the baby to be born so the mother can be killed. And nobody in our government appears to want to say anything about it.”

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” Blunt said.

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