House panel plans more
Saudi kidnap hearings

By Jon Dougherty

The House Government Reform Committee will hold two days’ worth of hearings this week to further examine a number of cases where U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and taken to Saudi Arabia.

Brian Rethmeier, a spokesman for the committee, led by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said the hearings will pick up where the panel left off June 12, when members reviewed three cases in which Americans had either been kidnapped or held against their will in the kingdom.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

The Oct. 2-3 hearings will feature testimony from families who have had children abducted and taken to Saudi Arabia, as well as testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raymond Mabus.

Mabus made such abduction cases a priority during his tenure, Rethmeier said, “and took aggressive steps to try to resolve them.”

On day one, Samiah Seramur and her daughter Maha, and Debra Docekal and her son Ramie, are scheduled to testify. Seramur and Docekal were recently able to get children out of Saudi Arabia, where they had been held for years, but both have other children they are still trying to get out of the desert kingdom.

Also on the first day, four other parents who have had children abducted will testify. Two of these parents, Michael Rives and Maureen Dabbagh, have children being held in Saudi Arabia despite the fact that there is apparently no legal basis for the children to be held there, said a statement released by the committee.

“These cases are significant because they show that the Saudi claims that they must follow their own laws appear to be false,” said the statement.

Joining Mabus on the second day of hearings will be Michael Petruzzello, a paid representative of the Saudi government who is salaried at $200,000 a month.

“The committee invited Adel Al-Jubeir, the foreign policy adviser to the crown prince, to testify, but he declined,” said Rethmeier. Petruzzello will come in his place, he added.

Representatives from the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs of the State Department have been invited to address their efforts to secure the return of U.S. citizens from Saudi Arabia as well.

“A number of the cases being reviewed by the committee raise substantial questions as to whether the Saudi government has been complicit in the kidnapping of American citizens, and whether the Saudi government has ignored its own laws to retain American citizens in Saudi Arabia,” said the panel, in its statement. “The role of the Saudi government in these kidnapping cases, and the failure of the Saudis to make any forward progress, or even act in good faith, raises a number of important questions. …”

Burton’s panel will be attempting to solicit whether the State Department has plans to secure the release of the reported dozens of U.S. citizens held against their will in Saudi Arabia, as well as whether Washington should hold Riyadh accountable for the detention of those American citizens.

Finally, the panel will attempt to sort out whether it believes Washington has the gumption to deal with the Saudis on other matters important to both nations if the administration fails to deal with the abduction issue.

Burton returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia in late August, where he led a congressional delegation that sought to press Riyadh on the issue of abductions.

Of the 14 cases Burton raised with Saudi officials, one – that of Californian Pat Roush and her two daughters – has probably garnered the most attention.

Roush’s daughters, Alia and Aisha, then 7 and 3 respectively, were abducted from a Chicago suburb by her ex-husband, Saudi national Khalid al-Gheshayan, in 1986. Roush has seen her daughters only once – in 1995 – since they were abducted.

Roush is writing a book about her ordeal for’s publishing imprint, WND Books, a joint venture with Thomas Nelson Publishers. She appeared at the panel’s June hearing.

Related stories:

Burton presses Saudis to release Americans

Burton’s Saudi trip called promising

Saudis, US colluding on kidnapped kids?

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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