Fukuoka cops free American who tried to get kids back

by Mariko Kato and Reiji Yoshida

An American man who was arrested in Fukuoka for allegedly abducting his children in order to regain custody has been released from jail, police said Thursday.

Christopher Savoie, 38, a Tennessee native, had been accused of taking his two children, aged 6 and 8, from his Japanese ex-wife late last month. He allegedly took them as they were walking to school and was arrested on his way to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka.

Kiyonori Tanaka, a police officer at Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, said prosecutors had made the decision and police are not in a position to comment on it. He said that in general, someone arrested could be freed from jail when there is no flight risk or fear of destruction of evidence, or if prosecutors decide not to press charges.

An official at the Fukuoka District Public Prosecutor’s Office declined comment Thursday, but a source told The Japan Times that prosecutors have released a statement to certain Japanese media firms.

The prosecutors said in the paper that they will “carefully consider” whether to charge Savoie, the source said.

Prosecutors decided to release him after he pledged “not to commit a similar crime” and settle issues over child custody only “through talks involving attorneys,” the source quoted the prosecutors as saying in the paper.

Savoie has shown signs of remorse over “having violated Japanese laws,” the source quoted prosecutors as saying.

Savoie claims that his former wife, Noriko, technically abducted their children from their Tennessee home in August after their divorce, and after a state court granted him custody. The police in Franklin, Tenn., issued an arrest warrant for her.

Savoie was arrested in Japan after putting his children in a car and heading toward the U.S. Consulate.

Based on Japanese law, he was arrested on suspicion of abducting minors.

The family lived in Japan from 2001 to 2008, before moving to Tennessee. The couple divorced in January, according to Savoie’s attorney.

Complicating matters, Japan has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, whose aim is to secure the prompt return of children wrongly removed to or retained in any signatory countries.

Savoie, who is fluent in Japanese, reportedly obtained Japanese citizenship in March 2005.