MANAMA, Bahrain — Relatives of a Bahraini princess who eloped to the United States with an American Marine want the woman to return, saying they are prepared to forgive her transgression, a government official said Saturday.
"Her family loves her and is really hoping that she will return home," an Information Ministry official said of Mariam Al Khalifa, 19. "She made a mistake, and they are willing to forgive her."
The official refused to comment when asked whether Al Khalifa's husband, Pfc. Jason Johnson, also would be welcome.
Bahraini royalty rarely marry outside the family circle. They also belong to Islam's mainstream Sunni sect. Islam forbids Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.
Al Khalifa met Johnson, who is not a Muslim, last year at a mall in the Bahraini capital of Manama, where the 25-year-old Marine was assigned to a security unit. As his deployment was ending late last year, he forged U.S. military documents used by Al Khalifa to fly to the United States on a commercial airplane. Immigration officials in Chicago discovered the ruse.
The Marine Corps demoted Johnson from lance corporal to private first class and assigned him extra duty. The couple, who married in Las Vegas, live on the Camp Pendleton military base, north of San Diego.
The U.S. State Department wants Al Khalifa deported. She has requested asylum, saying she would face persecution for marrying a non-Muslim if she returns to Bahrain. She is to appear at an immigration hearing Monday.
The Information Ministry official said Al Khalifa would not be harmed.
Al Khalifa has won support from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, who urged U.S. immigration officials in a letter Thursday to allow her to remain in the country.
Al Khalifa's father is believed to be a cousin of Bahrain's head of state, Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain is a small island nation off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia that also is the regional base for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.