A U.S. Army veteran and her partner were sentenced in January to 25 years in prison in Kuwait, but her family says Kuwaiti authorities used the pretext of a drug investigation to convict the women for being homosexual.
Monique Coverson, a Detroit native who served in the Army, returned to Kuwait in 2015 as a military contractor, Coverson's sister Ashley Frank told Detroit's WDIV. Coverson told her sister she was planning to return to the U.S. in May to surprise their mom for Mother's Day, but when the holiday came and went without a phone call from Coverson, Frank began to worry.
After doing some digging, Frank learned her sister -- and her sister's partner, Larissa -- were jailed and awaiting trial on a drug charge. Kuwaiti authorities executed a 3 a.m. raid on the home Coverson and her partner shared in May of 2015. Kuwaiti police found what they described as 1 ounce of a "tobacco-like substance," the family wrote in a Change.org petition page asking the U.S. government to get involved.
A German lab later identified the substance as K2, a synthetic form of marijuana that is legal in Kuwait. But when the women went to trial, WDIV reported, they were suddenly accused of possessing a pound of hash instead of an ounce of synthetic marijuana.
"The lawyer is saying that it's going to take a little time, so give them about 30 days. Thirty days turned into 90 ... and it's been almost a year now that she's been in prison," said Michelle Jackson, Coverson's mother.
Coverson said Kuwaiti authorities were lying about the drugs, Jackson told WDIV. On Jan. 12, a Kuwaiti court sentenced Coverson and her partner to up to 25 years in prison.
Kuwait has a poor record when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Homosexual acts are illegal in the country, and anyone under 21 convicted of participating in homosexuality can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, The Independent reports.
In 2013, the country came under fire from human rights groups for proposing a "gay test" designed to keep homosexuals out of the country, according to the New York Daily News, and a lawmaker responded to international criticism by saying "gays are delinquent deviants who destroy humanity."
As of Feb. 8, the Change.org petition asking President Barack Obama and State Department officials to intervene had gotten almost 88,000 signatures, with a goal of 150,000.
Frank said her family is convinced Kuwaiti authorities were motivated by her sister's sexuality, and that the drug charge is just a way for them to prosecute the case without appearing to penalize Coverson and her partner for being gay. She pleaded with others to sign the Change.org petition, and lobby the Department of State to pressure Kuwait to release the women.
"This is a chance for America to give back to a veteran who has given to them," Frank said.