U.S. Dad in Japanese Jail in Custody Clash

An American father on a mission to reclaim his young children in Japan was arrested over their alleged abduction while they were walking to school with his ex-wife, officials said Wednesday.

Christopher John Savoie snatched his two children -- an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl -- by force Monday in the southern city of Fukuoka, shoved them into a car and drove away, said Akira Naraki, a police spokesman in the city.

Savoie, a 38-year-old from Franklin, Tennessee, was arrested by Japanese police as he tried to enter the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka with the children, said Tracy Taylor, a spokeswoman at the consulate.

He was arrested after his ex-wife, Noriko, alerted the police.

The divorced couple and the two children were living in Tennessee, but Noriko Savoie came to Japan with the two children, Isaac and Rebecca, in August without telling her ex-husband, Taylor said.

Amy Savoie, Christopher Savoie's wife and stepmother of the abducted children, said on "The Early Show", "(Christopher) must have just been desperate."

Slideshow: Father's Fight to Rescue Children

Amy told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez Christopher misses his children and they miss him. Noriko, Amy said, was not letting Christopher speak to the children on the phone.

"They were hanging up on him, not letting him speak to his children. And when he called the grandparents' house, he could hear Isaac crying in the background. He was crying, 'I promised my Daddy, I promised my Daddy.' And he was too sad to talk. (Christopher) said he didn't know how they were doing."

Patrick Braden, the father of a girl who was abducted to Japan by his girlfriend, said he isn't surprised the U.S. Embassy didn't help.

"The embassy makes it a policy to tell American parents of children kidnapped in Japan that don't try to bring your kids to the embassy, but he may not have had that message from the State Department. And I don't blame him at all. He can have no confidence in the State Department. He can't really have confidence in our government putting pressure on the government of Japan. (He) can't have any confidence in the government of Japan. And, you know, the last desperate act when he only trusted himself. And so, it seems, that he made a desperate move."

Amy said she's hoping to have her husband back soon.

"I don't know if I'll ever see Isaac and Rebecca again," she admitted. "We hope that if -- if she is granted custody over there -- that they will come and find us when they are in their twenties maybe. And come see that we still love them, and that we miss them. And we always wanted to be a part of their lives. And I know that they love him."

Rodriguez pointed out the U.S. State Department released a statement in this case saying this is a high priority and they understand that the problem. But they say "parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan. We're eager for our relations to improve on this issue."

The number of such cases is growing in Japan - mostly with Japanese mothers bringing their children back to the country and refusing to let their ex-husbands visit them.

Japan has yet to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to standardize laws among participating countries to ensure that custody decisions can be made by appropriate courts and protect the rights of access of both parents. Japan has argued that refusing to sign the Hague Convention helped shield Japanese women and their children fleeing from abusive foreign husbands.

In Japan, if a couple gets divorced, one parent often gets sole custody -- normally the mother.

The United States, Canada, Britain and France are the four main countries that have urged Japan to resolve the issue, said Kosei Nomura, a Foreign Ministry official in charge of international law. At least 70 cases of disputes exist between Japan and the U.S., but the government does not have the exact number.

Nomura said Japan is aware of the need to address the issue and that Japan is seriously considering signing the Hague Convention.

"The problem is growing, and it has become a diplomatic issue," he said.

Braden said right now there are no options for parents in this situation.

"There's nothing legal that we can do. And, you know, there isn't much hope," he said. "The State Department has been saying that same message for a long time. Since 1993, as far as I can document."

In the last year, Braden said, a lot of things have changed in the State Department, with new action taken, but the timeliness of the cases' resolutions is an issue.

"The truth is, if the continued actions of the State Department mean that these cases are going to take 10 or 20 years to resolve, we need a new set of plans," he said. "We need to innovate new ideas and the State Department needs to change their tactics."

The Savoies were divorced in January and the mother was given primary care of the children, while the father was given time with them on alternating weekends and four weeks during the summer, according to records from the Chancery Court for Williamson County in Tennessee that were posted on the Web site of local television station WTVF.

Taylor said U.S. Consulate officials have twice visited Christopher, who now has American and Japanese lawyers. His Japanese lawyer could not be contacted immediately.
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