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American arrested in Japan for snatching own kids

If a women Abduct Children without fathers consent, thats not a crime in today world, but when Father take back those Abducted children thats crime and he will be arrested.

TOKYO – An American father was arrested in Japan after snatching his children from the hands of his ex-wife, who had taken the kids to her native country without telling him.

The back-and-forth exposes a simmering diplomatic dispute over Japan’s traditional favoritism toward mothers in custody battles. While the father was apprehended by Japanese authorities, a U.S. court has issued an arrest warrant for the mother.

Christopher Savoie grabbed his two children — an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl — while they were walking to school on Monday, forcing them into a car and driving away, Akira Naraki, a police spokesman in the southern city of Fukuoka, said Wednesday.

His former wife, Noriko, then called the police. Savoie, a 38-year-old from Franklin, Tennessee, was arrested just as he was about to enter the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka with his children, said Tracy Taylor, a spokeswoman at the consulate.

The divorced couple and their children were living in Tennessee, but Noriko came to Japan with the kids in August without telling her ex-husband, Taylor said.

Alarmed that he would no longer be able to see his children in Japan — where custody in divorce cases almost always goes to the mother — Savoie flew across the Pacific to reclaim them, said Jeremy Morley, one of his lawyers.

Divorced fathers in Japan typically don’t get much access to their children because of widespread cultural beliefs that small children should be with their mothers.

That stance has begun to raise concern abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese mothers bringing their children back to the country and refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them. The United States, Canada, Britain and France issued a joint statement in May urging Japan to address the problem.

“Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue we have quite different points of view,” said David Marks, U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tokyo. “Culturally, Japan and the U.S. have very different approaches to divorce and child-rearing. Japanese privacy laws can create frustrations for ‘left-behind’ parents.”

Children are increasingly caught in the middle of those legal battles as the number of divorces among couples of Japanese and foreign nationality have almost doubled to nearly 19,000 cases in 2008 from just more than 10,000 in 1998, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry.

Japan has yet to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected. Tokyo has argued that the Hague Convention could hinder its ability to shield Japanese women and their children fleeing abusive foreign husbands.

Local police in Japan said they received court permission to keep Savoie in custody for 10 days. He was not officially charged. American Consulate officials have twice visited Savoie, who also has a Japanese lawyer.

Morley, Savoie’s lawyer, said he had about 100 clients who have found it impossible or very difficult to see their children after ex-spouses took them to Japan.

“This is an untold story. It’s a terrible problem,” he told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday.

Tokyo is aware of the need to address the issue and is considering joining the Hague convention, said Kosei Nomura, a Foreign Ministry official in charge of international law. He said at least 70 dispute cases exist between Japan and the U.S., but the government does not have the exact number.

“The problem is growing, and it has become a diplomatic issue,” Nomura said.

Because of Japan’s stance on this issue, U.S. court rulings in the past have decided in favor of keeping children in that country, saying American parents would otherwise totally lose their custody right because Japan is not part of the Hague Convention.

U.S. Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, told The Associated Press he has introduced a bill called the International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009, which would penalize countries that show a pattern of not cooperating to resolve such cases. Penalties could include being denied military aid and certain loans, he said.

The Savoies were divorced in January and the mother was given primary custody of the children, while the father was granted limited time with them, according to records from the Chancery Court for Williamson County in Tennessee that were posted on the Web site of Nashville television station WTVF.

Savoie has since remarried. His wife, Amy, told CBS’s “The Early Show,” that Noriko was not letting the children talk to him on the telephone after she took them to Japan. Amy said she doesn’t know if she and her husband would ever see the children again.

“We hope if she (Noriko) is granted custody over there, that they will come and find us when they are in their 20s. Maybe and come see that we still love them,” she said.

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