Lawyer: Bahraini Princess to Seek US Political Asylum
A Bahraini princess who eloped to the United States after falling in love with a US Marine will formally apply for political asylum here, her lawyer said Monday.
"We have an obligation to file an asylum application" on behalf of 19-year-old Meriam Al-Khalifa, attorney Jan Bejar said following an appearance before a US immigration judge.
Al-Khalifa was smuggled into the United States late last year by her then fiance, Lance Corporal Jason Johnson.
Johnson, 25, had been serving with a counter-terrorism unit providing security to US citizens in the Gulf nation, when the two met in a shopping mall and began dating.
But when her father, a cousin to Bahrain's Emir Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, and the family found out, they forbade the relationship. So the pair decided to elope.
To take her away from the Gulf nation, Johnson dressed her up as a US Marine, complete with fake military documents and a New York Yankees cap to hide her long hair, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.
As a result of the move, she faces US charges of being in the United States without proper documentation and misrepresenting her identity.
"She does not have a choice because the immigration service is unwilling to withdraw the charges," her lawyer said.
However, Meriam Al-Khalifa says she fears retribution if she returns.
"She is extremely concerned," Bejar said, adding that the Bahraini woman was "technically not in this country."
"I did the worst thing possible in my country, to fall in love with a non-Muslim," Al-Khalifa told the Times. "To make it even worse, he's an American."
A US State Department spokesman told reporters at Thurmont, Maryland, the site of ongoing Middle East peace talks, that the case was to be handled by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
"The Bahraini government has made its views known to us concerning the matter," spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"We feel the case should be decided on its merits in accordance with immigration law. We leave it in the hands of the Immigration service. It's not a matter in our hands in any way," he said.
The next court date on the case will be held in two months -- SAN DIEGO, California (AFP)
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