• Kyodo

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A Paris court has issued an international arrest warrant for the Japanese wife of a French national for alleged abductions after she ran off with their two children and refused to let him see them, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The Frenchman, 39-year-old Vincent Fichot, made headlines during the summer when he staged a hunger strike near National Stadium ahead of the Tokyo Olympics to raise awareness of the issue, which Japanese police did not investigate. French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the matter with then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his visit to Japan for the sporting event.

Fichot's case is one of a number of similar cases involving Japanese spouses, but it is rare for such cases to lead to the issuance of an arrest warrant.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution last year calling on Japan to allow European Union citizens to see children that were being kept from them by Japanese spouses.

In Fichot's case, the two children — a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl — were first taken from the couple's home in Tokyo in August 2018, according to documents filed about the accusation. The father has not been allowed to see them since.

The French authorities said they have jurisdiction to investigate the case as the children are dual citizens.

Fichot, who still lives in Tokyo, earlier reported the situation to police. But they did not launch an investigation, saying it was not rare for a wife to run away from home with children, according to the sources.

It is unclear whether the Japanese side will cooperate with French investigators, as the two countries have no agreement regarding the handover of suspects.

Masahiko Shibayama, a former education minister and chairman of a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling for the introduction of joint custody, met EU Ambassador to Japan Patricia Flor on Friday and said the situation is regrettable, expressing his intention to work to solve the problem as soon as possible.

Flor, meanwhile, pointed out that Japan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and that being able to meet with parents is an extremely important right of children.

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