US Man Accused of Grabbing Own Kids Freed in Japan

By: Mari Yamaguchi - AP Writer
By: Mari Yamaguchi - AP Writer

Japanese police released an American man held for 18 days, pending an investigation into accusations he snatched his children from his ex-wife.

The case is among a growing number of custody disputes in Japan
that involve one foreign parent. Japanese law allows only one
parent to be a custodian - almost always the mother - leaving many
divorced fathers without access to their children until they are
grown.

While prosecutors have not pressed charges against Christopher
Savoie, they haven't yet dropped the case either, and an
investigation is continuing, police official Kiyonori Tanaka in the
southern Japanese city of Yanagawa said Thursday.

Savoie, 38, of Franklin, Tenn., was arrested Sept. 28 after his
Japanese ex-wife, Noriko, called police to say he grabbed their two
children, ages 8 and 6, as she was walking them to school, forced
them into a car and drove off.

Savoie's current wife, Amy, was awakened by a telephone call at
her home in Franklin early Thursday and answered to hear her
husband's voice.

"'Hello, my love, I'm out,"' were his first words, Amy Savoie
told The Associated Press.

She said the couple had only a few minutes to talk, and it isn't
yet clear when her husband would be coming home.

"We've been able to speak, but there's so much to talk about,"
she said. "This is all about him coming home."

In response to a request to interview her husband, Amy Savoie
wrote in e-mails that he would not grant any interviews until he
returned to the United States.

"He is a grieving father, first and foremost," she wrote. "He
has to get home and contend with the fact that he had to
essentially 'bury' his children yesterday."

The Fukuoka District Prosecutors Office refused to comment on
the Savoie case. But a suspect with a pending investigation is
released on the condition he or she consents to undergo further
questioning. No bail is involved in a pre-indictment release.
Police said Christopher Savoie is not under surveillance.

Savoie's Japanese lawyer Tadashi Yoshino was not available for
comment. His assistant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing
policy, said Friday that Savoie was released from police custody
after pledging that he would never repeat the wrongdoing, and on
the condition he does not take the children with him. He also
promised to settle the dispute with his ex-wife through
negotiations.

He is allowed to leave the country.

The family had lived in Japan from 2001 and 2008 and moved to
the U.S. in 2008. The couple was divorced in Tennessee in January
2009, and Noriko Savoie was given primary custody.

In August, she brought the children to Japan without telling her
husband. A U.S. court has since issued a warrant for her arrest.

Police said that Noriko Savoie and her children are staying with
her parents in Yanagawa, but they have refused to talk to the
media.

U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor declined to comment on
details of his release, but added that her understanding was that
he would not be indicted.

"We are pleased to hear that he was released, and we are
hopeful that we can work with the Japanese government to come to a
long term solution on this problem," Taylor said. "This problem
meaning the issue of international child abduction."

Japan's single-parent custody policy has begun to raise concern
abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese
mothers bringing their children back to their native land and
refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them.

The United States, Canada, Britain and France have urged Japan
to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
The convention, signed by 81 countries, seeks to ensure that
custody decisions are made by the courts of a country of abducted
children's original residence and that the rights of access of both
parents are protected.

Tokyo has argued that signing the convention may not protect
Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands,
but Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada recently said officials were
reviewing the matter.

Savoie could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the
crime of kidnapping minors, police said.


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