Saudis, U.S. colluding
on kidnapped kids?

By Jon Dougherty

A woman whose two daughters were kidnapped by their Saudi Arabian father and taken to his country 17 years ago has accused the State Department and Saudi officials of conspiring to keep them from her.

Pat Roush, who had her daughters Alia and Aisha taken from her in 1986 while her ex-husband was under a restraining order, said today that a State Department official had called to say the girls – now young adults – had been moved to Europe.

Roush said the official called to ask whether she would like American embassy personnel “to take a statement from [both girls] concerning where they want to live” – in Saudi Arabia or back in California, where Roush lives.

While at first seemingly encouraging, Roush said the Saudi government – with State Department assistance – has attempted such ploys in the past and has never been serious about releasing her girls.

“The Saudis and their lobbyists have been pushing for that statement for over one month,” Roush said in a statement. “Each time it has been denied due to the proverbial ‘gun to the head’ situation that my daughters are in.”

Roush, who has seen her daughters only once – in 1995 – since they were abducted, has accused the U.S. government over the years of bowing to Saudi officials because Washington needs Riyadh’s military bases and its oil.

Roush’s ex-husband and the father of their children – Khalid al-Gheshayan – defied a court order and abducted Alia and Aisha al-Gheshayan, then 7 and 3 respectively, from Roush’s suburban Chicago home.

Al-Gheshayan took the girls back to Saudi Arabia, where women have substantially fewer rights, and has prevented them from leaving. Now adults, Alia, 23, has been married off to a cousin of her father. Plans are in place to marry off Aisha, 19.

Both girls have expressed a desire to return to the U.S., Roush said, but repeatedly have been denied visas and passports by the Saudi government, even though they are considered American citizens allegedly being held against their will.

News of the girls’ transfer to an undisclosed European country comes as Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and a delegation of six other congressmen, traveled last week to Saudi Arabia to discuss release of Roush’s daughters and other American children who have been kidnapped and taken to the kingdom over the years.

Also last week, in a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Bashar, President Bush broached the subject of kidnapped American children, though it was unclear whether Bashar responded positively to Bush’s plea.

“Even while [Burton] is inside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a delegation of six members of Congress to try to secure the release of American women and children held hostage by that regime,” Roush said, “the State Department and the Saudi Arabian government are working hand-in-glove to hatch another ruse to thwart efforts to bring Americans home.”

She said “moments” after receiving a call from Burton “telling me he was doing all he could to secure the release of my daughters,” an official from American Citizen Services in Washington – Randy Carlino – called and offered to allow U.S. embassy personnel in Europe to get statements from her daughters.

“This Stalinistic show meeting is not unlike the forced dog-and-pony show that Elian Gonzales’ father had to play going back and forth to the U.S. while his family was held inside Cuba,” Roush said.

She said if her daughters were really close to release, she would have expected Burton to have been contacted by U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan. Instead, “the State Department called me with this new ruse.”

“This only further shows how complicit the State Department is with carrying out the orders of their masters in Riyadh,” said Roush.

Congress has passed laws giving parents of internationally abducted children recourse in the courts, but many of the parents say that when international politics also is a factor, such laws tend to be of little practical benefit.

Related stories:

Saudis to be pressed on kidnapped Americans

Head of consular affairs at State resigns

Witnesses set for Saudi kidnap hearing

Hearing on kidnapped girls next week

Congress takes up Saudi kidnap case

Mom of kidnapped girls continues crusade

Roush to write WND book on ordeal

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