Japan drops child-snatching case against US man

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 9:18 PM

Japanese prosecutors confirmed Friday that they have dropped the case against an American man arrested in Japan when he snatched his children from his ex-wife.

Christopher Savoie was arrested Sept. 28 in Fukuoka, Japan, as he tried to enter the U.S. Consulate with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by taking the children from Franklin, Tennessee, to her native Japan a month earlier.

Christopher Savoie, who is back in the U.S., was told Japanese authorities are closing the case, his spokesman Wes Yoder said Thursday.

The Fukuoka District Prosecutors Office decided to drop the case because Savoie's intent was to see his children, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy. He declined to provide further details.

In a statement Thursday, Savoie said he was not surprised the case had been dropped. He said that if Japanese authorities had reason to indict him they would have while he was in custody.

After the mother took the children to Japan, a U.S. court issued a warrant for her arrest and gave the father full custody. That order has no effect because Japan hasn't signed an international treaty governing child abduction.

Even so, Savoie said, he still had joint custody of the children in Japan when he was arrested. The children are still in Japan.

Savoie's arrest has brought international attention to child custody issues in Japan. The country's law allows only one divorced parent as custodian _ almost always the mother _ leaving many fathers without access to their children until they are grown.

In a growing number of custody cases, Japanese mothers bring their children back to their native country and refuse to let their foreign ex-husbands visit.

Last month, ambassadors from the U.S. and seven other countries urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The convention seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the courts in the country where the children originally lived and that the rights of access of both parents are protected.

Tokyo has argued that the Hague Convention could hinder its ability to shield Japanese women and their children fleeing abusive foreign husbands.

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In a letter to President Barack Obama, 22 U.S. senators urged him to bring up the international child custody issue during his meeting with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, scheduled for later Friday.

The letter, signed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat of California, Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican representing Tennessee, and 20 other senators, said there are 79 cases involving 100 children of American citizens who have been "abducted" by a parent to Japan.

"This is a heartbreaking loss for the left-behind parent and deprives the child of a relationship with two loving parents," the letter said. "Equally concerning is that left-behind parents typically have little recourse once their child arrives in Japan."

(This version CORRECTS CHANGES dateline, UPDATES with confirmation from Japanese prosecutors, corrects date of Savoie's arrest to Sept. 28 sted Sept. 30, ADDS letter from 22 U.S. senators to Obama)