"Hello, My Love, I'm Out": Japan Frees Christopher Savoie, Father Arrested for Re-Abducting His Kids

(Family Photo)
Photo: Christopher Savoie with son, Isaac.

TOKYO (CBS/AP) Christopher Savoie, the Tennessee father arrested in Japan after he tried to snatch his children back from his Japanese ex-wife, has been released, officials said Thursday.

Photos: Father's Fight to Rescue Children

Savoie's current wife, Amy, was awakened by a telephone call at her Franklin, Tenn., home early Thursday and answered to hear her husband's voice: "Hello, my love, I'm out."

Savoie's story caught national media attention in September. The father claimed that his ex-wife, Noriko Savoie, kidnapped their two children - an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl – and took them to Japan in August, even though Christopher Savoie has sole legal custody in America.

But the Japanese government viewed Noriko Savoie as the sole custodian and arrested Christopher Savoie when he tried to take them back.

The case is among a growing number of international custody disputes in Japan, which allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother. That leaves many divorced fathers without access to their children until they are grown.

While prosecutors have not pressed charges against Savoie, they haven't yet dropped the case either and an investigation is continuing, said police official Kiyonori Tanaka in the southern Japanese city of Yanagawa. They decided to release him on grounds that he was not a flight risk, he said.

Savoie, 38, of Franklin, Tennessee, was arrested Sept. 28 after his Japanese ex-wife accused him of grabbing his two children, Isaac and Rebecca, from her as she walked them to school in southern Japan.

The Fukuoka District Prosecutors Office refused to comment on the Savoie case. But a suspect with a pending indictment is released on the condition he or she accepts further questioning. No bail is involved in a pre-indictment release.

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

Photo: Christopher Savoie and children, 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca.
Photos: Father's Fight to Rescue Children

"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 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.

As for Christopher Savoie's immediate future, his new wife Amy said the couple had only a few minutes to talk and it isn't yet clear when her husband could 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."

Photos: Father's Fight to Rescue Children

October 2, 2009 - Christopher Savoie: Still Married to Woman Who Took His Kids, Say Japanese
October 1, 2009 - Christopher Savoie, Dad Jailed in Japan for Child Rescue, Speaks from Prison
September 30, 2009 - Amy Savoie Speaks About Christopher Savoie's "Desperate" Attempt to Reclaim Children from Japan
September 29, 2009 - Christopher Savoie Follows Abducted Children to Japan, Gets Arrested (Photos)